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Kentucky School District Revolutionizes School Lunches with the Help of USDA Equipment Assistance Grants

Parents and caregivers understand how picky children can sometimes be at mealtime, when the dinner plate may be met with folded arms and a turned-up nose.

Fortunately, individuals like Angela Adkins dedicate their careers to providing kids with delicious meals that give kids the nutrition they need to grow and thrive. Her team of school nutrition professionals dish up meals for over 1,700 students every day in Carroll County, Kentucky.

"If I wouldn’t feed a meal to my family, there’s no way I would serve it at school. The students are our families, and we take care of them," said Adkins, nutrition director of Carroll County Schools. “It’s the little things that make the biggest difference.”

students receiving lunch at a school lunch line

In 2022 and 2023, Carroll County was awarded a USDA National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance Grant by the Kentucky Department of Education, which allowed the school district to upgrade kitchen ovens that had been in service for over 25 years. According to Adkins, their new ovens are larger, cook food more evenly, and allow the school district to incorporate more local beef, pork, and vegetables into their meals.

image of a new piece of equipment in a school cafeteria

“We offer four to five different meal options every day, and the kids have responded well to it. Parents tell us that their kids go home in the afternoon with excitement and often can’t wait to tell what they had for lunch. These meals serve a pretty big role in our community,” said Adkins.

School districts and states across the country use the Equipment Assistance Grants to support their meal programs in a variety of ways, including:

  • Upgrading older kitchen equipment for modern and more safe models;
  • Increasing scratch cooking;
  • Improving food safety;
  • Improving storage of fresh food; and
  • Expanding the school breakfast programs.

Carroll County Schools also participates in the Community Eligibility Provision, an option that allows eligible schools to provide all meals at no cost to students. An overwhelming majority of students in the district rely on Adkins and her team to provide them with a nutritious breakfast and lunch each school day.

Adkins encourages school districts to apply for Equipment Assistance Grants, especially if their district faces barriers to providing healthy, well-balanced meals for students. She also advises fellow nutrition directors like her to be honest about their school district’s needs. “If they're willing to put forth the effort to incorporate something into the program for the betterment of the student, it's worth it to apply for the grant,” said Adkins.

To learn more about the NSLP Equipment Assistance Grants, visit the NSLP webpage.
To learn more about what’s happening in school meals, visit the USDA School Meals Page.

group of students eating school lunch in a cafeteria
Page updated: January 09, 2024