Outdated and non-working kitchen equipment will soon be replaced at Oneonta City Schools thanks to a $35,000 Vulcan Equipment grant awarded by the School Nutrition Foundation. Funds will be a great asset for the 11-member kitchen staff who feed more than 1,400 students each day.
Currently the school kitchen has 40-year-old ovens that are so outdated that replacement parts are no longer manufactured, along with two steamers and a pass-through cooler that no longer work. There is also a need for an additional heated holding cabinet. In the past three years alone, the school district has spent more than $56,800 on repairs of kitchen equipment.
Understanding the need for better equipment, school nutrition director Terrie Coggins (pictured at right), along with other school professionals from around the country, applied for the grant in fall 2020 and were all vying for the School Nutrition Foundation grant. Like other professionals, Coggins has not only had to deal with insufficient equipment, she and her team have had to face the challenges stemming from the pandemic.
This grant will not only allow the OCS kitchen staff to obtain more efficient equipment, it will allow team members opportunities to develop more recipes, including those made from scratch and incorporating the use of more local, fresh vegetables. Coggins said, “I am so appreciative of my excellent team, who have become like family over the past year. The Redskin Café strives to provide nutritious food in a nurturing environment and this grant will help make it easier to do so.”
In a normal school year, it remains a challenge to meet the needs of students with an extremely tight school meal program budget for the staff and one single cafeteria that serves the elementary, middle, and high school students. Throw in the pandemic that caused a decline in revenue and the challenge became even greater.
Because school meal programs are funded by cafeteria sales and reimbursements, the critical decline in revenue due to school closures and a shift between hybrid and remote learning has left little money for the purchase of necessary equipment, transportation expenses, and other costs associated with the pandemic feeding programs. Yet, all of this is vital as they prepare nutritious and wholesome meals for students.
School Nutrition Foundation chair Julia Bauscher, SNS, had this to say, “We understand many school nutrition departments are facing budgetary restrictions, staffing challenges, and many negative impacts of the pandemic. It is our hope that this grant funding provided by our industry partners will help bridge the gap for some of these districts as we all continue to support school nutrition professionals in their goal of providing quality meals to students.”
With Vulcan awarding up to $35,000 of their equipment, Coggins will soon be working with a representative to determine what equipment will best suit OCS needs. Thanks to this grant, it will benefit their food nutrition program greatly.