Other Pamplin Media Group sites

CCSD seeking full-time nutrition services supervisor


The district has been dealing with food services issues since November

Parents might find it challenging to provide nutritious meals that their children will eat.

Doing so for approximately 3,200 students, ranging in age from kindergarten through high school, could prove even more daunting.

That is the challenge for the Crook County School District, and they must do so while maintaining compliance with state and federal nutrition guidelines.

Dictating a variety of requirements that include the need for standardized menus, calorie maximums, and minimum servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein, the guidelines make for challenging work in the local schools.

“The changes in the USDA program, in 2009-2010, precipitated our need to consider having a nutrition services manager,” said Anna Logan, director of Business and Finance with the Crook County School District. “Without it, we would have a hard time becoming compliant.”

Lacking such a position, an agreement was negotiated with the Redmond School District to share the services of Nutrition Manager, Liane Kaiser, who works three days in Redmond and two days in Prineville.

Kaiser was charged with ensuring USDA compliance and creating consistency in food service across all schools in the district. As a result, menus are now developed a month in advance and the middle school kitchen prepares entrees for its own students, as well as the elementary schools.

According to Crook County School Board member Scott Cooper, the board has been dealing with the issue since November.

“The board has made it clear that they are concerned about the quality of the food and overall food service operations,” said Cooper. “There has been too many parent complaints and too much personal experience with systems that aren’t working.”

Cooper admitted that some of the difficulties are due to federal policy, but contends that there have been some poor management choices as well, citing a variety of complaints including a lack of food choices, insufficient quantities, and the logistics of getting through the food line.

“Students are having a difficult time getting their food to a table and having enough time to eat,” said Cooper, alluding to the decision to remove trays from the cafeterias.

Recognizing that the needs of the food service operation requires more time than Kaiser is able to provide, the district decided to advertise for a full-time nutrition services supervisor. Logan had hoped to announce a new hire at December’s school board meeting, but unfortunately, the candidate selected turned it down.

“We had a strong candidate, but were unable to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement,” said Logan, “so we have reopened the position and will keep it open until filled.

In the interim, Logan will assume the duties of nutrition supervisor, with Kaiser as her mentor.

“In order to intelligently direct our staff, I need to acutely examine our current processes by spending time at each site and speaking with staff,” said Logan. “We need to make sure there is sufficient variety of fruits and vegetables so that students can eat what they like and also have the opportunity to try foods that are new to them. We also need to make sure there is a sufficient quantity of entrees, so all students have a choice, even those at the very end of the line,” she added.

Cooper is hoping that changes come soon, and said that the board, as well as a lot of parents, have run out of patience.

“The quality of our schools does not depend on a single person,” he said. “We expect staff to deliver in the meantime.”

Logan agreed, saying, “If we had someone hired and scheduled to start working soon, it would make sense to wait and let that person recommend ways to implement changes. Now that we know it could be a while before someone is hired, we need to take action now and consult experts to make sure we remain in compliance with regulations.”

Noting that the district has already made some small, but asked-for changes, including elimination of sporks, removing pretzels and string cheese from the menu, and adding peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to field trip sack lunches, Logan is up to the challenge of offering foods kids like.

“Kids may not like fish, but there is a minimum amount of fish we must serve,” she explained, referencing the federal guidelines. “On the other hand, for food they like, we want to serve more of it,” she added.

Cooper and the board just wants to see real, and immediate, improvements.

“We are charging people a good amount of money for using the service and we know that kids that are well fed learn better,” he said. “At my dinner table, our kids always ask, ‘Why can’t we have hamburgers, nachos, and pizza every night?’ The answer is no, you can’t, but we need to provide a happy medium.”