How to feed over 2,000 students
If you think it’s hard to get your kids to eat their fruits and vegetables, think about Kathleen Britton’s job. Britton is the director of food services for the Park City School District (PCSD) and has the task of feeding about 2,100 kids, five days a week.
Britton explained that every meal served by PCSD schools must meet strict nutritional guidelines if they want to receive federal and state subsidies. Britton uses a computer program called NutriKids that analyzes the nutritional content of each meal. Every meal must have a fat content of less than 30 percent and less than 10 percent saturated fat while exceeding a certain amount of calories, Britton explained. The total amount of calories required for each grade level varies. For example, elementary lunches must have over 685 calories. Britton said that parents call her a lot and are concerned about what their children eat at school. Parents of PCSD elementary schoolers receive a monthly menu that tells what is being served each day and gives nutrition facts about the food served each week.
Sue Woolstenhulme, Park City High School (PCHS) food service manager explained that in order to meet the national standards, all meals at PCHS are made with lowfat cheeses, lean meats, and whole wheat breads. Also, Woolstenhulme says all of their foods are baked, "they may look fried and taste fried, but they aren’t."
One way the PCSD supports healthy eating is by providing an all-you-can-eat fruit and vegetable bar at all elementary and middle schools. Also, Britton explained that they use ingredients such as whole grains, turkey and soy whenever possible. She said students often don’t know they’re eating healthier ingredients and that it’s hardest to change the eating habits of high school age-students.
Last year, the PCSD served an average of 2,100 lunches every day which, according to Britton, is equivalent to feeding almost half the students in the district. Food for all these hungry kids primarily comes from Nicholas and Co. a wholesaler based out of Salt Lake City.
The PCSD sends most of the raw ingredients they purchase
directly to a food processing plant so it arrives in the PCSD kitchens in a ready, useable form. Woolstenhulme said that food comes to PCHS in a "quicker, safer and easier to prepare form that tastes better," because of the processing plants. For example, all the beef comes to the PCHS kitchen already cooked so they don’t have to deal with the hazards of raw meat, Woolstenhulme explained.
Britton said that she has worked for the PCSD for 16 years, and that they haven’t raised school meal prices in the last 15 years. According to Britton, they will reevaluate prices at the end of the school year, but she doesn’t know how long they can keep meal prices where they are because of the rising cost of raw materials. For example, Britton explained that last year the district paid $53 for a case of pizza, and this year they are paying $65 a case.
Woolstenhulme said that one way they keep the cost of school lunch down is by paying very close attention to "shrinkage," or food that goes to waste. Woolstenhume says the challenge they face is that they don’t know how many students are going to eat school lunch each day, or what items the students will choose. She pointed out that many restaurants loose a lot of profit because of wasted food and one reason school lunches are so inexpensive is that they find a way to waste very little food.
According to Britton, the schools are legally required to accommodate students with special dietary needs if they provide a doctor’s note that explains the student’s predicament. Also, the schools offer vegetarian options every day. Woolstenhume said that her kitchen staff is very willing to accommodate the needs of each student.
The PCSD is peanut-free to accommodate students with nut allergies. Sandwiches are served with sunflower butter instead of peanut butter at the elementary schools every day, Britton explained.
Along with lunch, PCSD schools serve breakfast every day. Woolstenhulme explained that breakfast at school is a great resource for busy families who may not have time to sit down for a decent breakfast every morning. Breakfast costs $1.10 at the elementary schools, between $1.30 and $1.40 at the middle schools, and $1.40 at PCHS. Woolstenhulme explained that they have, "a whole spread of amazing choices," and she thinks most families can’t go out and buy a breakfast that is nutritious and filling for that amount of money. Britton said that the breakfast program is growing in popularity.
Families can qualify for free or reduced-price meals if their household income is at or below 185 percent of the national poverty level, if the family receives food stamps, benefits under the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, or the child benefits under the Utah’s Family Employment program, according to the Utah State Office of Education. Woolstenhulme said that most families filled out applications for free or reduced-price meals during registration, but if a family situation changes at any time, they can go to the district office and fill out an application, which should take about a day to process.
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