Methuen Schools Receive School Nutrition Foundation Grant for New Kitchen Equipment

Robert Frati 1The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF), the charitable arm of the non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA), has named Robert Frati, food service director of Methuen Public Schools in Methuen, MA, as the recipient of the SNF Winston Equipment Grant for school meal program equipment. Facing continued challenges stemming from the pandemic, school nutrition professionals around the country applied for SNF Equipment Grants in the fall of 2020, all vying for upwards of $65,000 worth of new equipment to benefit their school meal programs.

Frati applied for the equipment grant to help replace aging equipment, which his staff uses to feed the district’s 7,000 students. In just three years, the district has spent more than $390,000 on kitchen equipment repairs or purchases. Frati is planning to use this grant to replace a pair of double stack ovens and two steamers, original to the Marsh Grammar School and Comprehensive Grammar School’s 30-year-old kitchens, which continuously need repairs.

Additional labor had to be allocated at two schools due to inefficient and outdated kitchen equipment, which also increases utility costs compared to newer equipment. Staff must plan menus based on what equipment is working. Frati believes with the right kitchen equipment, staff would be able to plan more innovative menus, increase the number of scratch made options and add satellite locations throughout the district to help increase student participation.

“The benefits of new kitchen equipment are great, like better performance and reliability, easy cleaning and meeting heath codes,” said Frati. “Special considerations have to be made because of the age of the equipment. Menu items that should be prepared in minutes can sometimes take hours – frozen corn in the steamer can take up to an hour to heat. At times, we’ve had to purchase prepared foods instead of scratch cooking, which raises our food costs.”

School meal programs operate on extremely tight budgets, funded by cafeteria sales and reimbursements for meals served. With revenue declines due to COVID-19 school closures and the shift between distance learning and hybrid models, many school meal programs lack critical funds to purchase necessary equipment and supplies or cover transportation, temporary staffing and other costs associated with current COVID-19 feeding programs.

“Dependable and proper kitchen equipment is vital to help school nutrition professionals prepare and serve quality meals that help nourish young minds,” said School Nutrition Foundation Chair Julia Bauscher, SNS. “These grants help replace or upgrade equipment to support an efficient kitchen and successful school nutrition program operations.”

SNF and Winston Foodservice have worked together for more than a decade to provide one lucky school district with 10 new pieces of Winston equipment. Once awarded, Frati will work with a Winston Foodservice representative to determine what best suits the school district’s needs for the coming school year.

About School Nutrition Foundation:

The School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) is a 501(c)(3) and sister organization of the School Nutrition Association. SNF awards grants and scholarships to the men and women who feed the nation’s school children. The 2021 SNF Equipment Grants are made possible by the generous contributions of Vulcan and Hobart (divisions of ITW Food Equipment Group), Winston Foodservice, CMA Dish Machines, Innoseal Systems, Cambro Manufacturing, Sterno Delivery Equipment, Lakeside Manufacturing Equipment, TekVisions and Unox Equipment.

About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 50,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information on school meals, visit www.SchoolNutrition.org/SchoolMeals.

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