Recipes for Success

Colchester School District is committed to providing and supporting an atmosphere that encourages balanced and healthy lives; this is demonstrated in a number of ways, including but not limited to its strategic plan, its award-winning wellness program, and its food service program.

School food service programs all across the nation face a unique set of challenges. Not only must they carefully account for the nutritional, allergy, and religious considerations in their meal offerings for students and staff, but they must also do so in conjunction with federal guidelines and legislation, ever-present budgetary challenges, and a variety of taste preferences among the demographic that unfortunately tend to lean away from healthier options.

CSD’s food service program has been actively involved in a number of ongoing program enhancements aimed at improving meal offerings for our school community. For example, CSD has participated in farm-to-school initiatives at all five schools for a number of years, working with such area farms as Sam Mazza’s, River Berry Farm, Arethusa Farm, Champlain Orchards, Butterworks Farm, and the Intervale Food Hub.

CSD’s food service program also includes ingredients and products from a host of local and regional vendors into its menu offerings on a regular basis, including Cabot Cheese, Alec’s Spicy Pretzels, Shelburne Farms, Leonardo’s Galateria, Vermont Nut Free Chocolates, From the Ground Up Gluten-Free Bakery, Green Mountain Creamery, Echo Hill Farm, Good Neighbors Foods, and Cafe Indigo.

We’ve talked at length about the community garden at Malletts Bay School, and Colchester High School also has a garden. Much of what is grown is used in menu offerings and in the salad bars.

The students in our district also participate in some of the logistical considerations of the food service program. Malletts Bay School has conducted taste tests and offered feedback to the district’s food service director, Steve Davis. And students in grades 3–12 (meaning students at Malletts Bay School, Colchester Middle School, and Colchester High School) also have a sandwich bar and a salad bar.

CSD’s food service program runs in the black—an improvement from years past—and despite limited increases in meal prices and with limited financial support from the general budget, it has instituted a number of improvements in the last several years, including:

  • enhancing the quality of the menu offerings by using very few preprocessed foods and providing the students with healthier meal options. Such menu options include but are not limited to couscous and quinoa, roasted local veggies and kale-braised greens, chilled strawberry soup and gazpacho, orzo and rotini with pesto sauce, and healthier snack options like carrot and kale chips
  • working with local food vendors
  • remodeling the CMS kitchen and cafeteria
  • purchasing a district smoothie bar that will move throughout the schools in the district, and
  • purchasing and implementing a point-of-sale system.

Let’s talk a bit about the point-of-sale system, because it is a particularly important feature. It not only expedites the meal-purchasing process during short meal periods, but it also encourages participation in the school lunch program because it is an entirely cashless, prepaid system, and students’ status is protected; in order words, students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals are not identified. Furthermore, only food items can purchased, and students cannot take cash from their meal accounts. And because parents can view records of their children’s food purchasing activity online and even control their children’s options—all online at their convenience—they know exactly how meal funds are spent. (Learn more about how to pay for student lunches here.)

The food service staff members are dedicated to providing high-quality meals for our students. They are enthusiastic about what they do, and they are an important part of the day for many students. For example, Porters Point School’s head cook, Bunny Ploof, recently received the School Nutrition Association of Vermont’s Greet the Challenge Award for Excellence.

The district’s food service program—as with all district programs—is continually evolving and improving with our students’ best interest in mind. The district and our greater community want the same thing: the ultimate objective is excellent, affordable nutrition in our schools. To that end, Business and Operations Manager George Trieb and Director of Nutrition and Food Services Steve Davis are in the process of establishing committees consisting of administrators, teachers, and students in all five schools in order to build upon the existing positive momentum and to implement additional improvements for the program, including even better meals and faster service for the students.

For more information about CSD’s food service program, please contact Steve Davis.

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