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Food Services upgrades with stimulus funding

Three local school districts will improve kitchen equipment with $26K from federal government

Posted: July 7, 2009 8:17 p.m.
Updated: July 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

As more students take advantage of low-cost meals provided at local elementary schools, the Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency plans to use $26,000 from the federal stimulus package to purchase new kitchen equipment.

The one-time amount of $26,219 will allow for heating units, rotating ovens and coolers for kitchens at Saugus Union, Newhall and Sulphur Springs school districts, said Jane Crawford, director of school food services for the Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency.

“We’re grateful for what we’re able to receive at this point,” Crawford said Tuesday.

The kitchen equipment, which should be ready for the upcoming school year, will allow the food services agency to continue to provide quality meals and service to students, Crawford said.

“We want to make sure we have the appropriate equipment to cook, hold and refrigerate the things we need to serve,” Crawford said.

The local food services agency is one of 242 other California agencies that will share more than $12.8 million in 2009 Equipment Assistance Grants, according to state Superintendent Jack O’Connell.

The funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed by President Barack Obama in February.

The number of applications from families for free and reduced meals has stayed the same, but more kids are taking advantage of the school-lunch meals, Crawford said.

“It’s not so much getting more applications as much as getting more participation,” she said.

Out of all the school districts, 27 percent of students qualified for the low-cost meal program for the 2008-09 school year, a 1-percent increase from the previous school year, she said.

The agency also saw a slight decrease in the number of students paying for meals, she said.

For the 2008-09 school year, the agency served 11,500 lunch meals a day, Crawford said.

The agency attributed the increase to rough economic conditions with fewer students being able to bring meals to school from home.

“With the state of our economy, there are more families that are taking advantage of the free and reduced program,” Crawford said.

The Santa Clarita Valley School Foods Services Agency, created more than a decade ago, serves schools in the Newhall, Castaic Union, Saugus Union and Sulphur Springs school districts, she said.

While the agency serves Castaic Middle School, the William S. Hart Union High School District has its own food services for the junior high and high schools, she said.

The agency serves all elementary school students who want to eat breakfast and lunch meals in the cafeteria.

The elementary school districts offer breakfast every morning and a “second chance breakfast” for students at brunch, she said.

The agency prepares five entrées a day for lunch, with meals like burritos and fresh pizza with whole wheat crust, she said.

School sites also have a salad bar stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, she said.

 

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