Nutrition Services aims to keep students on campus for lunch
Douglas County School District's Nutrition Services Department works hard to offer students a wide variety of fresh, tasty and nutritious options -- with the goal of keeping hungry students on campus. ...Watch
Answers to Your Questions
Because lunch is a student favorite, it, naturally, is also a popular topic for teen gripes and grumbles.
I recently met with DCSD Manager of Menu Services for Nutrition Services Amy Faricy and Manager of Operations Jennifer Peifer to get answers to a variety of student-submitted questions like:
- If there are Subway restaurants at our schools, can we get Chick-Fil-A or Chipotle?
- What about Starbucks for that caffeine boost to get us through the day?
- Why are lunch periods so short?
While these all sound like small additions and simple tasks, I found out that it is a bit more complicated behind-the-scenes. ...MORE
Q: Why don’t high schools have more of a variety when it comes to lunches and brands?
A: High schools try to provide us with the most options they can. If you’ve grown up in DCSD and went to an elementary school, you might see now that high schools have quite a few options to choose from. They try to provide diversity amongst our meals and offer the variety of options like other restaurants may.
Every high school has a real Subway franchise, which are comparable to any other Subway location in town In fact, they are highly successful. Collectively they are the top-grossing stores in the state.
Nutrition Services would like to bring other third-party restaurants or their products into our high schools to give students even more options -- but they’ve faced some hurdles. While these restaurants would love to have a built-in customers -- many of them have specific restrictions on the look, feel and size of their restaurants (for instance, some require patio seating or specific color schemes).
Some stores are scared away purely because of the sheer size of our orders that students place daily.
Finally -- students are savvy consumers and expect to pay the same price at our schools that they would across the street. That makes it a difficult proposition-- since the profit margins are slim.
“You’re paying someone else for all the food and the labor, and you’re trying to get some type of markup out of that,” said Faricy.
The Nutrition Services department is a self-sustaining department, so the funding they get to upgrade kitchens and buy food is from the profit they make from the food they sell.
While they’ve been unable to strike deals with the likes of Noodles and Company -- they are continuously looking for ways to satisfy student’s tastes. Next school year, Nutrition Services is planning on expanding its options by offering “action stations, where food is made-to-order for students. The focus will change daily from burritos to Asian to Pasta Bar.
Q: Why can’t we serve soda and other items like that in our lunchrooms?
A: The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has standards that all schools in the state must follow. One is called the Colorado Healthy Beverage Policy. Schools must provide students healthy beverages. The rule does allow DCSD to serve beverages with caffeine, but the calories have to be limited along with other things like sugar. This is one of the reasons that we don’t have Starbucks right within our school. The rules prohibit all of the good stuff like Frappuccinos and Mocha Lattes.
Even before the new beverage rules, however, Nutrition Services bought high-quality espresso machines and tried to create coffee bars in every school and ran across another -- even more formidable challenge.
“It’s the brand name that matters,” according to Mrs. Faricy, “ours was cheaper, same quality, and more accessible. Kids just want that name brand I guess.”
Even though I wasn’t in high school at the time they tried these coffee bars, it makes sense. We live in a society where everything has to be a name brand, and if it’s not a name brand, it’s not good enough.
Q: Why are lunches priced the way they are?
A: The lunches at each school level are priced a tad bit different based on the options and portion sizes available. In elementary and middle schools they are cheaper, because the Federal Government subsidizes a portion of the cost.
At the high school level, Nutrition Services does everything possible to price items as competitively as possible with restaurants in the local area. For example, all Subway locations in our high schools charge anywhere from 25 to 50 cents less than a normal Subway restaurant in the local area.
Q: It’s hard to find prices for certain items. Am I just missing them, or are they not available?
A: At the high school level, it’s hard to post prices for every single item they have -- because of space limitations. Next school year, however, Nutrition Services is planning on putting digital signage (menus on TVs) in all of the cafeterias to help with this problem. They’re aware of it, and this seemed like the best solution for the problem.
Q: Why is lunch so short at some high schools and longer at others?
A: This is actually not up to the folks at Nutrition Services. This is a decision is made at the individual school level and is tightly tied to CDE’s instruction time requirements. The more instructional time a school works into their schedule, the more time they are allowed to allot to lunch. The problem, however is that by doing either or both they are then extending the school day, something that students aren't excited to do.
If Nutrition Services had it their way, lunch would be a bit longer.
“We are some of the biggest proponents to say that 20 minutes is not enough time for lunch,” explained Peifer.
Nutrition Services would suggest 30-40 minutes in order for students to not only digest their food -- but in order to give students time to try new things. They say the quicker the lunch period, the more likely students will stick with things they are comfortable or interested in, often skipping fruits and vegetables.
Story written by DCSD Student Reporter Brad Cooley, a junior at Douglas County High School.