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What your food service director wants you to know

March 2, 2017
Tascin Brooks , The Town Crier

There isn't a place where buses go out and pick up 5,600 customers for a restaurant daily, but that is exactly what happens here in the Austintown Local School District - 2,500 lunches served daily and 700 breakfasts, which equals more than 3,000 meals daily.

The average restaurant is said to serve around 600 customers a day.

In 2010, stringent guidelines were mandated by the United States Department of agriculture, and since that time the district has restructured the food service department. Meals at each building are carefully crafted to meet guidelines. What people don't realize is that when a menu is developed it must meet certain guidelines that include calories, sodium, fat and sugar.

Anything sold on campus during the day has to fall under the following guidelines:

Breakfast: Kindergarten-12th grade: 450-500 calories a day; under 540 mg of sodium

Lunch Meals: High school: 700-850 calories a day; under 1420 mg of sodium

Kindergarten-8th grade: 600-650 calories a day; under 1230 mg of sodium

A la Carte Entrees: Under 350 calories; under 480 mg of sodium

Snack Options: Under 200 calories; under 230 mg of sodium

(fat and sugar are also factored into all categories)

Also, while planning the menu items, there are mandates of vegetable groups such as dark green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, legumes, starchy vegetable, and other vegetables that need to be offered in certain amounts weekly. All daily meals in the district consist of meat / meat alternative, fruit, vegetable, grains and milk.

Many people don't know that the high school offers four to five meal choices daily, and kindergarten through eight grade offers three to four meal choices daily. To keep up with current trends, I try to bring interesting ideas and different choices to the students and staff of the district while maintaining these guidelines.

Some little known facts:

We recently implemented two "build your own" salad bars at the high school, where students can get all five food components while choosing their favorite salad toppings.

"The Common Grounds" coffee counter offers iced lattes, coffee with steamed milk, hot cocoa and fresh brewed iced tea. All of these beverages can be combined with DaVinci and Monin syrups, all while staying under 60 calories per 12 ounces.

Fitch High School recently received a bronze level HealthierUS School Challenge Award for promoting lifelong healthy food choices and physical activity. Only about 600 schools in the United States have received this award.

At the middle school, students have had the opportunity to "build their own" burrito as if they were in line at Chipotle.

The intermediate school has their own snack corner that offers snacks that meet the Smart Snack guidelines and have had a "build your own" sub sandwich day.

School food service department have made so many changes in the last six years with former President Barack Obama in office. Under President Donald Trump and the new administration, people have been wondering, "Will these stringent guidelines stay the same or will there be a change?" I have been asked this question numerous times and I believe that the guidelines will stay in place.

Industries have invested a lot of money in reformulating products, packaging and quality of whole grains to make their items appealing for students across the United States. So, I don't see the guidelines changing a lot with our new president for many reasons.

Even though we have stringent guidelines that we are mandated follow (and will most likely continue to follow), we are constantly coming up ways to reinvent the guideline compliant wheel. At Austintown we believe it is important to follow the guidelines, but still offer an exciting array of options to keep our students fueled for success!



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