By SERINA MARSHALL Staff Writer
Washington County Schools has won a grant from the non-profit School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) to replace aging kitchen and cafeteria equipment.
SNF received applications from around the country for six available grants worth up to $100,000 each.
“The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) is a 501(c)3, sister organization of the School Nutrition Association. SNF awards grants and scholarships to the men and women who feed the nation’s school children. It also provides professional develop- ment resources including training and school nutrition research,” said Kristie Borges, senior associate with CJ Public Relations.
Caitlin Kite, Nutrition Director for Washington County Schools, says that the SNF does a lot of the push and funding for school nutrition.
“They are the foundation of what school nutrition is,” she said. “They do a lot of speaking with Congress on school nutrition and are a liaison between us as directors and USDA.”
Kite oversees a school nutrition program for the district’s nearly 8,500 Students. She said the grant will help the program improve the safety and functionality of some of its kitchens.
“We were thrilled to find out we were finalists and absolutely honored to find out we received the grant,” Kite said. “We are just so deeply appreciative that SNF and Vulcan (equipment) see the need in school nutrition and are helping. We feel oftentimes we go unseen, so to be seen and that they understand this need is there, we are just so grateful for that.”
Kite said that this grant will allow the staff to improve the quality, safety and functionality of the kitchens and food.
“The steamers that we plan to purchase with the funds will allow us to steam fresh and frozen vegetables instead of always using cans. We recognize that fresh is obviously best, so we are really excited for the steamers, these kitchens don’t have steamers,” Kite explained. “I think that is something particularly exciting to bring in new that they’ve never had inside those kitchens. The ovens we are currently using cook unevenly and they require the staff to rotate the food frequently to avoid burning, and also to ensure the food is cooked properly.”
The new ovens will give the staff more time to work on improving the program and making multiple options for the children without being limited on the ability of the equipment, said Kite.
“We are really excited to have a new oven and also anticipate being able to get a hot holding cabinet to hold the food at the proper temperature,” she said. “So those are the three pieces of equipment we plan to bring in. We are just tickled to death and can’t say enough about how grateful we are for this grant. This year has been a difficult year. We strug- gled with staff shortages and supply chain issues and now we face these uncertainties of how to feed the children properly with waivers expiring, so having this equipment that works well, is one less issue for us to be concerned with and just allows us to put the focus back where it needs to be, with the kids, which is exactly what we intend to do. We are looking forward to working with Vulcan in the next few weeks on acquiring the equipment.”
Kite said that you always put your name in the hope when these opportunities come about, and you never really anticipate being the winner, especially in a national grant.
“For Washington County Schools to be a recipient, it’s
just a great gift,” Kite said. “I wanted to express my extreme gratitude to the SNF and Vulcan equipment for awarding Washington County Nutrition this grant.
“I also want to give a special thank you to Twana McKinney, she’s our grant writer in Washington County and she did a lot of assisting writing the grant. And as always, we want to thank our outstanding staff in the cafe- teria as they work tirelessly to serve our children.”