Did you miss our recent blog post on the Winston Industries Equipment Award Grant? The application period is OPEN and we urge you to apply to recieve ten new pieces of equipment for your school kitchen facility.
We recently sat down to talk with Deborah Taylor (RD/LD, SNS), the Director of Shawnee School Nutrition Services at Shawnee Public Schools in Shawnee, Oklahoma to hear how receiving the Winston Equipment Award Grant last year has improved her school nutrition program. Deborah also had some words of wisdom for her fellow directors and school foodservice professionals on why applying for grants and scholarships are so important. Thank you for sharing with us, Deborah!
Deborah: The School Nutrition Association [and Foundation] does an amazing job of advertising and promoting. Between ANC, the SmartBrief [newsletter], and the [School Nutrition] magazine I feel like there is excellent coverage. If you are reading those things, you are going to know about the Winston [Equipment] Grant—but you have to be reading those things! You have to be willing to click on the links, and to go apply. If you aren’t reading the materials SNA puts out for us, you might miss it!
I knew about the grant for a few years, I just never got around to applying until last year. I think people need to not be afraid to apply!
BB: What is special about the Winston Equipment Award Grant, and why should school nutrition professionals seriously consider applying for it?
Deborah: I think compared to some of the things out there that the Winston Equipment Grant is very easy to apply for—even some recipe contests have been more work than this! When you go in to some websites to apply for grants you might realize you didn’t save something, or it times out and you lose everything you’ve done because you haven’t saved along the way. The Winston Equipment Grant isn’t like that; it’s user-friendly to work on. On two of the questions for the Winston grant, I wrote out my thoughts in Word first—when I can’t do that it is frustrating. The Winston application let me think my answers through and be prepared, rather than answer off the top of my head. The Winston format let me take my time, organize my thoughts, put together what I wanted to do, and then go in and put it in the application in a way I could be satisfied with the answers I turned in.
BB: Do you remember how long it took you to find out you had won?
Deborah: I was expecting it to be a couple of months, but I think it was about a month after the deadline. It was very soon after the application deadline. As directors we are so busy with our jobs—which is keeping food on the table—that sometimes we forget to plan for the big things like equipment in our kitchens. Even if I hadn’t won all of this equipment, [applying] helped me evaluate what pieces of equipment would make my kitchens more efficient. It helped me create an equipment plan in my mind, and visualize what I would like to see in my kitchens.
BB: Tell us about the equipment you won, and how that has changed what you do.
Deborah: The award is for ten pieces of equipment, and that’s a lot! Institutional equipment is very expensive, and for Winston to be willing to do this is amazing. Eight of my pieces were Winston Thermalizers, which are pieces of cooking equipment that don’t require hoods. I put them at four of my schools, where we have open-room kitchens in which we have a cold pass-through and a hot pass-through right behind the serving lines. I put [the Thermalizer] right beside the hot pass-throughs.
I’ll give you an example. In a normal situation–let’s say you’re making burritos–you open the box, you fill up the sheet pans, put them in a convection oven, and then with hot pads you pull out hot, heavy sheet pans; then you put them in a rack, and cart them to your pass-through, put them in the back of your pass-through, and when it’s time to eat then you pull them out one-by-one from the pass-through and onto your serving line. That’s a lot of steps! But with the Thermalizer the staff fills the pan with burritos–this is mainly for things that are pre-cooked, CN label-type products—then you fill the pan with the product, and pre-heat it. So you just fill your Thermalizer, set it to the right temperature and holding time, and then you just leave it! This frees up the staff to go about the rest of their tasks preparing meals. When it’s time to eat, you just open up the Thermalizer and fill the line directly from the equipment—all of those steps in the middle are gone. The only time staff handles a hot sheet pan is when they take it out of the Thermalizer after the food has been cooked—that is amazing! And it doesn’t have to be under the hood. It’s a great, time-saving piece of equipment.
BB: What advice do you have for other directors in regard to applying for grants, in general, and the Winston Equipment Award Grant, specifically?
Deborah: I just applied for the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge—it was hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours – I can’t even tell you how many hours of documentation and filling out things for that! It will be the second time my schools have been awarded, because I did it back in 2006 and 2007, back then there were no monetary awards. When it comes to contests with monetary awards, you aren’t even going to pay for your time, but with this Winston Equipment Grant it’s different.
When you are applying for this grant you realize that these are the types of things you need to know about your kitchens anyway; evaluating your equipment, learning what new equipment is out there, and what will help make you run more efficiently. This is something we are doing all the time anyway, at least in our heads—thinking about our equipment layout, our equipment needs. With the Winston Equipment Award Grant I received $100,000 worth of equipment, which is a huge return on the investment of time I spent applying.