Some students want Asian food, others sub sandwiches, and all of them want more pizza options. But the Baker County school district wants students to eat healthier foods, and it’s Cathy Golon’s job to see that both groups are happy.
Beginning August 20, when students return from summer break and experience the district’s revamped meals program, she’ll know if she succeeded.
Ms. Golon, the district’s nutrition services director, has been working with a Winter Springs, FL consultant, Sue Tatum of Vinca Marketing & Communications, to implement changes to the program, many of which are mandated by the federal agency responsible for funding about 70 percent of it.
They’ve revised school menus, but also how the food is presented to students, in hopes of making district-provided meals more appetizing and more nutritious. That way, Ms. Golon said, more students will participate in meal plans, which helps “keep them on campus and keep them safe.”
The effort started last spring when Ms. Tatum conducted focus groups and surveys with students at the middle and high schools to uncover their preferences. She was paid with a $4000 grant from the USDA (Department of Agriculture), the same agency that funds most the district’s food services budget.
“We wanted them to share what they wanted for the upcoming school year and we explained how the meal patterns would be changing and how best to combine those,” Ms. Golon explained this week.
For instance, she said, students on school meal plans will be required to have a specified amount of a “red-orange” vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes, but they prefer them as is, rather than made into something else, like sweet potato fries or carrot cake.
“We’re taking what they said to heart as we’re making the changes,” Ms. Golon said.