Park City schools take pride in lunch program
August 31, 2010
According to the director of food services Kathleen Britton, Park City schools distribute about 2,800 lunches to students each day. With administrators projecting district-wide enrollment to be about 4,200, more than 60 percent of students are expected to receive lunch from among menu options at their schools.
"Last year we were rated number one in the state for our menus," Britton said.
While planning school lunches, Britton consults the national and state-mandated guidelines. Utah’s Child Nutrition Program provides guidelines to target quantities of fat, sodium, protein, carbohydrates and calories recommended for students each day. Each meal is evaluated through a nutritional analysis to ensure it meets the necessary standards.
Britton, who has been working with district food services since 1992, is not the only registered dietitian working for the district. Elizabeth Luebbers, the coordinator of food services, works with Britton to plan and implement meals. "We are fortunate because a lot of districts don’t even have one dietitian," Britton said.
The state program follows the same guidelines as national programs. Park City schools offer new weekly breakfast menus, daily lunch and a fresh fruit and vegetable bar at lunchtime. Each meal must meet the same nutrition standards.
Park City schools offer two fresh fruits as part of the lunch entree each day. About five years ago, food services began offering whole grain and whole wheat bread products rather than enriched white bread products, according to Britton. Now all bread, rice and pastas offered in school lunches are whole wheat or whole grain.
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To accommodate individual student needs, schools offer vegetarian items and each cafeteria is peanut-free, Britton said. Students can also take advantage of the all-you-can-eat fresh fruit and vegetable bar. "From what I’m seeing here, I know they [students] can make good choices without just going to the salad bar," Liz nan, a registered dietitian at Park City medical Center, said.
The various menu options give students the ability to choose what they want to eat rather than having no alternative. Monthly menus are mailed to families so that parents can involve themselves in what their children eat. The menu provides the opportunity for parents to discuss healthy eating options with their kids to build habits for the future. Nutrition information is included with the menus so parents can track specific benefits of school lunches, said Britton.
Parents have an incentive to teach their children about eating healthy from an early age. "The kids that started when they were younger don’t even bark now about it," Britton said. Britton and Bynan both feel that parent involvement in school food services is vital to the future health of students.
Park City Food Services is a non-profit entity and only receives money from the district if there is a budget deficit. There has not been a budget deficit in the 18 years Britton has been the director. Meals are paid for by a combination of government grants and participating students.
Food Services receives 20 cents for each meal sold the previous year to purchase government subsidized food. Park City food services received $80,000. This budget will be used to purchase subsidized cheese, chicken, beef, canned and frozen vegetables and fresh fruits and vegetables, Britton said.
District food services receive government grants to offer qualifying students free and reduced meal options. Each meal costs roughly $3.20, including food, preparation and labor. Full price lunch is $1.75 while reduced is 40 cents. Full price breakfast is $1.10; reduced is 30 cents. Students can add money to their meal account in the office or online.
With the healthiest lunches in the state, Park City schools are looking to nationwide recognition in the future. Food service administrators plan to apply for the HealthierUS School Challenge, which promotes student health through a mixture of physical activity and healthy eating. Park City schools plan to spend the next four years qualifying for each of the four levels within the challenge. Schools earn government funded grants for each level on the challenge they achieve.
Park City schools would be the first school in Utah to achieve recognition as part of the HealthierUS School Challenge.