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Pictured above is the CCS kitchen staff. Standing, from left, are Jan Jaeger, Food Service Director Amy Prior, Stephanie Whitlow, Jan Large, Kelli Richardson and Dawn Weber. (Johnson Publications photo)

New lunchroom program showing improvement in numbers

    A new lunch program began the first of the school year at Chase County Schools (CCS) called Lunchtime Solutions Inc. (LSI).
    This company is an independent contractor with a written agreement with CCS to provide food and products for the kitchen staff to prepare meals for the school lunch program.
    Amy Prior is employed by LSI as the food service director. She is responsible for the staff, purchasing and implementing the program by maintaining compliance of government regulations.
    Susan Gracey of Hastings is the area director for LSI.
    Gracey explained that LSI has a nutritionist on staff, a compliance officer and a culinary team that develops recipes to meet all the rules and regulations for government guidelines in order to receive reimbursements.
    “Their goal is to offer students many meal choices so they have the energy to do all they have to do,” said Gracey.
    Previously, the school lunch program didn’t have as many options for choices, she added.
    So far this school year, the number of students eating breakfast and lunch is up 5 percent, she said.    
    The “Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act” was signed into law in 2010 and is still in effect today. The guidelines from this law must be followed and can be challenging at times, she said.
    The student population is divided into three groups: K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The K-4 age group are given two choices of entrees daily. The 5-8 group has five choices, and the high school age group is provided with seven different entrees to choose from daily.
    The menu selection criteria must comply with the correct number of calories, fat content and sodium levels for the corresponding age group. Foods must also be whole-grain rich (over 50 percent), Prior explained.
    They must also follow “Smart Snack” guidelines for high school age students.  
    An unlimited fruit and veggie bar is always available to all students and staff.
    They serve home-style meals daily and Pizza Hut pizza twice a month.
    More students and staff are eating this year than previously, so numbers are up, she commented.
    “Kids are willing to try new options, which is encouraging. But the challenge is to get them in the door. Kids are our customers and we are catering to them,” Prior stated.
    She went on to say that it is like running a business.
    “We are going from the mentality of just a school lunch program to a fresh take on school lunches,” she expounded.
    “The environment and attitude must improve. The food has to look good, taste good and be presented well,” she said.

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