Column: Food service program means big businesWORTHINGTON — The District 518 Food Service Program is big business. With an annual budget of $1.3 million, the district serves around 380,000 lunches and 190,000 breakfasts during the year.
By: David Skog and Michele Cranston, District 518, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The District 518 Food Service Program is big business. With an annual budget of $1.3 million, the district serves around 380,000 lunches and 190,000 breakfasts during the year. On average, 88 percent of the 2,500 district students are eating school lunch and 45 percent are eating breakfast. The district processes more than 1,000 free and reduced lunch applications covering more than 1,500 students each year. Based on income guidelines set by the Federal Food and Nutrition Program, families may qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches based on economic need.
The District 518 Food Service Fund has operated with a positive balance for many years. The District employees 27 full- and part-time staff in the Food Service department at four buildings. Breakfast and lunch are served each day at all district buildings. The district also provides meals to the Even Start Program, Worthington Christian School and Head Start. Many of the after-school programs offer snacks as well. Because of the positive fund balance, the Food Service Department is able to meet its needs for equipment replacement and upgrades as well as look at expanding menu offerings. We are also able to keep our lunch prices below the state average.
For the past two years, District 518 has participated in the Summer Feeding program. During June and July, this program provided free lunches and breakfasts to anyone in the area that is 18 years old or younger. The meals are offered at five different locations in the City of Worthington. Average participation during July was approximately 560 lunches and 260 breakfasts per day.
As you may have read in the Daily Globe, District 518 began participating in the Farm to School program this year. The emphasis of this program is to provide schools with locally grown fresh produce. So far this fall, we have served sweet corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers to our students. The response by the students has been very positive. This effort was aided by a $5,000 grant from Nobles/Rock Community Health through the Statewide Health Improvement Program. The hope is to expand these offerings in the future.
The Food Service is currently working at developing and providing information concerning calories, fat grams and carbohydrates for all of the menu offerings. This is an ongoing project, and information will be posted in the cafeterias. An emphasis this year is to increase the use of whole grain and to provide fresh fruit three times per week. We also offer a fresh vegetable bar daily.
The District Food Service staff works very hard to provide your children with healthy, nutritious and tasty meals. Please feel free to ask questions or make comments about the lunch program to any of the building administrators or our Food Service Coordinator, Michele Cranston. We are always looking for new ideas or options to keep our students satisfied.
David Skog is director of management services and Michele Cranston is food service coordinator in District 518.