Nutrition and produce industry advocates expressed support for new legislation that will give schools money to buy cafeteria equipment and provide staff training.

Jessica Donze Black, child nutrition expert with Pew Charitable Trust, praised the School Food Modernization Act, introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Donze Black said in a statement that the bill will help schools upgrade kitchen facilities and serve healthier food. Donze Black said 88% of school districts around the country say that they need at least one piece of new kitchen equipment, and 64% face challenges with staff training. “This bill will help schools remove these obstacles so that they may more efficiently and safely serve the healthy foods that students need,” she said.

Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh, said students across the U.S. want more fruits and vegetables in salad bars and in school meals. But he said schools need larger walk-in refrigerators, portable salad bars, shelving, and electrical infrastructure upgrades to serve more fresh, healthy meals.

“We strongly support the School Food Modernization Act to provide both loan and grant assistance programs to schools, as well as a similar bill HR 1783 in the House introduced by Reps. Tom Latham and Mike McIntyre in 2013,” Stenzel said.