SHERMAN -Lunchtime at Sherman Central School has come a long way since the days of pizza melts and tater-tots, board members learned recently.
Cafeteria manager Heidi Ottaway took board members on a tour of the lunch program, both physically and through details. The past year has seen several positive results to the district's attempt to provide healthy enjoyable nutrition to its students, she said.
Ottaway reported that 72 percent of students are purchasing lunch, "which is quite high." Also, between 97 and 119 students have breakfast as well, she said.
Photo by David Prenatt
Sherman Cafeteria Manager Heidi Ottaway demonstrates how the new computer system has improved management of the program.
A state program recently mandated that schools offer fresh vegetables and fruits to students. However, many districts report a lot of waste. Ottaway told board members that waste has decreased this year by one to two large trash bags per day.
Part of the reason for this is that the district offers the fruits and vegetables in half-portions, Ottaway said. The students can take two portions, but only if they want to.
However, many fruit and vegetable dishes have become quite popular, she said. "The roasted cauliflower is a huge hit. We always run out," she said.
Another huge hit is "Breakfast for Lunch" days, Ottaway said. "It's more popular than pizza days."
"Fun Days" are also popular, Ottaway said, such as the Super Bowl party, when staff and teachers dressed up in football uniforms and served the lunch. The school also had a winter picnic, with hot dogs, baked beans and other picnic foods as well as a luau with tropical salad and barbecued pork ribs.
A salad or a sub are offered as an alternate to lunch each day, Ottaway said. The subs are made to order, so they are always fresh, she said.
Because of the popularity of the lunches, the program has been doing well financially, Ottaway said. The program cost $13,000 less this year, she said. The program has also been able to save money by recycling cans and using the laundry less often..
The new computer system has helped the district save money, as well as keep track of student funds and nutrition, Ottaway said.
In the new system, students can enter a number that will bring up their lunch fund balance, information on their lunch choices and their picture, Ottaway said. This has increased the ability of the cafeteria to move the line along.
"Kids don't need to bring money to school. It's all there in their account," she said. "We can process a student every five seconds."
Sherman superintendent Kaine Kelly said the changes have made the lunchroom a viable part of the students' educational experience.
"Things aren't dark and gloomy down here anymore. The students see it as an extension of the school, not just a place to come and get grub," he said. "Some of the improvements you have made have changed the way we do business. Most important, the kids are enjoying their lunches."