New School Year Means New Look in TN Cafeterias

A month into this very different school year, Knox County School’s Food and Nutrition Services Department (TN) is running like a well-oiled machine. Executive Director Brett Foster said that all departments were included in the district’s re-opening plan, which contributed to the successful modifications of the school meal experience. Reminders to stay six feet apart and wear a mask can be seen all over the district, especially in the cafeterias. Staff welcomed students back with fun bulletin boards designed to make those important messages appealing to students.

The district has in-person and distance learners, something the school nutrition department has adjusted to. Positive messages are still written on containers to inspire students through the day, encouraging them to succeed and reminding them they are appreciated by their nutrition staff. They have used clamshell packaging for safer, easier transport and staff has been trained virtually on how to package each food component separately to prevent cross contamination and encourage fewer hands touching the food.

“Our department was able to share information regarding temperature checks and screening of employees, mask use, glove use and the use of clamshell containers/wrapped plastic flatware,” Foster said.

Blog Post Featured Image: Food service staff prepare grab and go flatware sets for students, minimizing the need to touch napkins and cutlery.

All meal components packaged separately, using clam shells for salads and individually wrapped fruits and vegetables.

By requiring meal registration for distance learners, staff have a better idea of participation with exact number of meals per site, something they learned was important in the spring when they had open meal pick-up. This fall, while menu options have been simplified, new menu items will still be introduced, said Foster. She wants students who are participating in school meals to enjoy what they are eating and says less choice does not mean less food. Offering fewer choices than normal helps to speed up students through the serving line, which helps shorten the time students might be exposed to others. Masks are required for students going through the serving line and assigned seating creates space between students. Students are encouraged to wash hands prior to eating meals and provided hand sanitizer.

While this school year looks different than others, Foster said she hopes students and families realize they are still providing the same healthy and delicious school meals they have become accustomed to. The district will continue to offer the best school meals possible to both distance and in-person students.

Schools Shoot for the Stars to Celebrate Breakfast

School districts around the country celebrated National School Breakfast Week (March 2-6) last week. This year’s galactic theme, “School Breakfast: Out Of This World,” supplied schools with plenty of creative ideas to highlight the importance of school breakfast and help make students mornings a little brighter!

This year, school nutrition and food service departments created cafeteria decorations and wore out-of-this-world themed outfits!

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Kentucky School District Makes Breakfast More Accessible for Students

When speaking with school nutrition staff from Fayette County Public Schools (KY) last month for “Lunch Participation Jumps When Students Learn About Local Ingredients”  it was hard not to get excited about the amazing things they’re doing in school breakfast too! Continuing the trend with local ingredients and increased menu options, FCPS implemented programs to provide more scratch-made cooking – creating popular breakfast pizza and yogurt parfaits. They also incorporated more on-the-go breakfast options, like cereal packs and grab and go breakfast bags. Read more…

Lunch Participation Jumps When Students Learn About Local Ingredients

One school district increased school meal participation by educating their students about the local, healthy options they were already sourcing from local Kentucky Farmers. IMG-7308Fayette County Public School’s (FCPS) Nutrition Department (KY) worked closely with their Farm to School program to coordinate the Fayette Farm to School Challenge, a weeklong program filled with taste tests, cafeteria guests and educational programs to help increase student participation.

The Fayette Farm to School program worked to promote the educational aspect to families, students and staff, while the FCPS School Nutrition Department procured and prepared local menu items for the week. They featured recipes including cheesy chicken étouffée, an original created by District Chef Todd Gorrell, containing Kentucky sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The week also showcased how kid-favorites, like hot dogs and Sloppy Joe’s, could be made healthier, using locally-sourced produce and local farm-raised meats. Read more…

Bilingual Nutrition Director Helps Better Serve Latino Population in CA Schools

Connecting with students and truly understanding the community you serve is paramount to a successful school meal program. Looking to serve the school district’s large population of latino children, Keppel Union School District (CA) Keppel USD has found ways to incorporate common latino dishes and flavors into their school menus. 

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 2.02.17 PM Director of Child Nutrition Services Lilian Arreguin, the district’s first bilingual director, combines a knowledge of child nutrition with her personal cultural experiences to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of her students. Students are offered a variety of familiar flavors and international foods, mixing local foods with Mexican and Asian cuisine.

“The fact that I’m bilingual and first generation Mexican American is a bonus in an ever-changing diverse population,” said Arreguin. “I relate to the student population in this area since I grew up eating the items the students now really enjoy. I am able to teach, translate and have better communication with our bilingual students, staff and parents. I attend some community meetings and I’m able to discuss with our parents the difference between having lunch with child nutrition versus having lunch at a fast food place.” Read more…

School Cafeterias On Trend During National School Lunch Week

During National School Lunch Week 2019, school districts are featuring Instagram-worthy, healthy school menus that tout trends highlighted in School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) recent national report. The 2019 Trends Survey reveals cafeterias across the country are offering students more international foods, locally sourced ingredients, antibiotic free proteins, customizable meals, whole grain rich foods and grab-and-go options on menus. Read more…

Whole Grain Rich Options Abound in Schools

Whole grains are on school lunch trays to stay, according to School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) recent survey of school meal programs nationwide. When USDA regulations pertaining to whole grains in school meals took effect to add more menu planning flexibilities in July, some were worried about what this would mean for the whole grains in cafeterias across the country. However,  over 90 percent responding to the survey indicated that their school districts will exceed federal whole grain requirements.

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