Celebrating 10 Years Of Wellness
Nutrition Standards and Promotion
Each year it is important to assess and create an action plan to ensure implementation with the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutrition standards. This year the focus was on assisting schools with implementing the new Healthy School Team requirements. The School Food Service Department allocated the resources necessary to provide schools which included a dedicated school-based wellness contact. Communication regarding Healthy School Teams was dispersed in various methods. Initially a bulletin was drafted and sent out notifying the principals that they needed to establish a Healthy School Team. Once all schools reported their team members, newsletter were utilized to communicate important information and update. In addition, the Department created a webpage to provide dedicated resources to assist schools in establishing successful Healthy School Teams.
In addition to the Healthy School Team implementation, the School Food Service (SFS) Department is responsible for designing the menus offered throughout Palm Beach County for all of the Child Nutrition Programs. The menu development process is complex and consideration must first be given to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. The USDA Nutrition Standards for menu planning were phased in beginning in the 2012-2013 school year. These guidelines were founded on research-based studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine along with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations. Each year the Nutrition Standards are reviewed at a federal level requiring districts to remain abreast of the legislative process.
Smart Snacks in School guidelines are also a part of the USDA nutrition standards and established nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages sold in school which include vending machines, school stores, snack bars, food/beverage related fundraisers, and afterschool snacks. These guidelines went into effect on July 1, 2014 and the SFS Department is responsible for ensuring compliance. During the 2015-2016, the Department drafted a bulletin in collaboration with the Purchasing Department to address the foods and beverages sold to students via vending machines. Lastly, it is the responsibility of the Healthy School Team to ensure compliance with the Smart Snacks in School with regard to the sale of food and beverages on school grounds during the school day.
Product Evaluation Procedure
In order for the SFS Department to serve high quality, nutritionally enhanced products, a strong emphasis is placed on the procurement process. The SFS administrative team completes a thorough review of the product to include the nutritional profile, program contribution, and cost analysis. Then food manufacturers will typically present the approved products to the SFS administrative team for further review of preparation methods and overall assessment.
Once the product is approved by the SFS administrative team, the product is then sent out to sites for school-based testing. Many times schools of the Menu Advisory Board members are utilized for this testing. As part of their participation in this Board, they have been trained on how to administer school-based testing to ensure proper feedback is collected. While student feedback is most important, they also provide reviews on how the product cooks, if it holds temperature, if they would recommend an alternative cooking method, additional applications, etc.
The SFS Department continues to utilize a database that was designed specifically to document the evaluation process. Each item that is approved for the product testing is entered into the product evaluation database. Each item is given an individual reference number. When a school site is selected to test the product, the SFS Manager will have access to the database and the corresponding reference number. Once the feedback is entered into the database, the SFS Department has the ability to run reports and compare like items tested throughout the school year.
The School District of Palm Beach County offers the convenience of online prepayments to all students registered in the District. This service provides parents with a means of making secure payments any time of the day for their child’s activities and cafeteria meal account. It is an easy to use online shopping environment where you can use credit cards, eChecks, or pre-pay eWallet. This service allows parents to manage school and meal expenses, view the Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits webpage and click on the button titled “Meal Accounts – Payment & Purchase History.”