Every school has one: an old oven that takes 30 minutes to heat up a loaf of bread, coolers that keep food at the low temperature of 80 degrees, or trays that look more like jigsaw pieces. Luckily for schools, and students, the days of faulty equipment might be a thing of the past.

Titled the 2016 NSLP Equipment Assistance Grants, the USDA announced $30 million in additional funding to help improve school equipment. State agencies will competitively award the grants to School Food Authorities that are currently enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

According to the USDA,

“These funds will allow SFAs to purchase equipment to serve healthier meals that meet the updated meal patterns, with emphasis on serving more fruits and vegetables in school meals, including items purchased locally, improving food safety, and expanding access.”

What You Need To Know

SFAs will need to compete via a competitive grant process. Remember, however, that high need schools will be given priority. What are ‘high need schools’, you ask? Schools that have limited access to resources, older equipment, or schools in underserved areas where 50% or more students are eligible for free or reduced meals are labeled as high need. Also keep in mind that SFAs need to give priority to their schools that did not obtain a former equipment grant.

You’re probably wondering, “How will states award grants?”

In the memo released on February 5th, the USDA declared that states need to include the following factors in the award selection criteria:

  • Opportunities to increase the quality of meals served (for example, steamer-ovens to replace fryers)
  • “Smarter” lunchrooms (menus that highlight more nutritious food items, etc.)
  • The actual available funds

  • The condition/age of the current food equipment

While the funds are focused on equipment that improves the quality of meals served, additional focus areas include:

  • Equipment improving the food service program’s energy efficiency
  • Equipment that helps increase participation in the NSLP


States are required to complete the award process for their allocated grants by the end of June 30, 2017. Additionally, the USDA memo requires,

“SFAs must complete their procurement and expenditure activities by the end of FY 2018 (September 30, 2018).”

Fuel Up to Play 60

Along with the $30 million offered by the USDA, Fuel Up to Play 60, which is a nutrition and physical activity program launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, is offering up to $5000 per school in school nutrition equipment grants. Schools can apply individually, or districts can apply as a whole. Applications open early March 2016 and end Thursday, June 30, 2016.

Mobile Inventory

As previously mentioned, these special grant funds can be utilized for making your lunchroom “smarter.” One way to ramp up the tech in your school nutrition program is to utilize an inventory scanner. PrimeroEdge recently released a first in the industry, IntelliScan – an inventory management solution that will streamline your processes and reduce the possibility of human error in your counts. To find out more about this cutting-edge technology, visit PrimeroEdge.com/YesWeScan. Keep this solution in mind when deciding what to do with your newly granted funds.

Kick that old blender to the curb and say sayonara to your decade-old fryer. With spring right around the corner, it’s time to spring clean your cafeteria and get the latest equipment your school needs.