Next week is National School Lunch Week, a great time to celebrate the importance of the delicious and nutritious meals served to our students every day. Cherry Creek Schools executive chef, Brandon Durio, will be visiting schools next week to do cooking demonstrations and share some of his culinary knowledge with students. (Meet Chef Brandon here.)
Durio helps plan the 3.5 million lunches and 750,000 breakfasts served to students every year by the CCSD Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) department. He’s part of a team that includes a catering department, a centralized bakery, a central warehouse, 60 kitchen sites and 325 employees.
“Our team is dedicated to fueling students each day,” said Erika Edwards, FNS interim director. “They bake delicious cinnamon rolls and wheat bread. They deliver fresh food to each of our schools. They prepare and serve nutritious meals. Our team is our recipe for excellence.”
Every day, that team serves lunch to 20,000 students in just three hours. Those lunches include protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, milk and less fat and sodium than in years past. The meals meet stringent government regulations and, at the same time, appeal to students.
“No food is nutritious until it’s actually eaten,” Edwards said, which is why the team works so hard to prepare and present menu items that students want to eat.
The district believes that nutrition is essential to education; hungry kids don’t learn well. So the district provides free meals to all students who qualify for free and reduced price meals, which is about 29% of the student population.
FNS is a self-sustaining program and receives no money from the district’s general fund. It receives about $1,000,000 in annual commodity assistance and spends approximately $450,000 of this on fresh produce. To remain self-sustaining, FNS operates on a tight budget with approximately $1.58 to spend on each lunch, including milk ($0.22), fruit and vegetable ($0.60) and tray ($0.03), and just $0.89 on each breakfast meal, including milk ($0.22), fruit ($0.40) and tray ($0.03).
In addition to meal planning and preparation, FNS employees support teachers and schools as they teach students about nutrition and good health. The department also has a website, http://ccsdcafe.org/, which provides a wealth of information for students, parents and community members.