Child Nutrition Overcomes Challenges to Prioritize Nutrition

Oct 07, 2021

Oct 8 Job Fair FlyerThere is a correlation between breakfast and school performance in children. Eating breakfast impacts academics, brain function and overall wellness, and students in Frisco ISD are eating more breakfast than ever across 72 campus cafeterias.

“We are serving five times more breakfasts in the Lebanon Trail cafeteria than a typical year,” said Café Supervisor Marcia McNair. “Despite how busy it is, it’s still my favorite shift to cashier because it gives me time to get to know each student’s name and to set them up for success each day.”

McNair has worked in the FISD Child Nutrition Department for 18 years and cherishes the time she spends cashiering each morning.

“It gives me the opportunity to connect with students to learn what is happening in their lives,” McNair said. “I root for them when they are about to ask out their homecoming dates and wish them good luck on their tests.” 

She, like other café staff across the District, work each day to bring smiles to students’ faces despite the setbacks that are impacting the food and service industry across the country.

Like retail restaurants, the Frisco ISD Child Nutrition Department is facing supply chain shortages that impact everything from pizza boxes and plastic utensils to chicken and buns. What used to have a two- to three-week turnaround, can now take up to 10 weeks to arrive at the child nutrition warehouse.

Meanwhile, the District is serving more meals than ever thanks to a waiver FISD received from the USDA to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students for the 2021-22 school year. Across the District’s 72 campuses, more than 8,500 breakfasts and 32,000 lunches are served each day. This is a two fold increase over a typical school year.

Lebanon Trail Cafeteria in Action“Depending on the vendor, we order months and weeks ahead of time and sometimes we cannot be sure what will arrive from what we ordered,” said Katherine Smith, coordinator of nutrition. “Other times, we know a product is available, but vendors are also struggling with a shortage of truck drivers.

“Every day, in cafeterias across the District, every staff member is giving their best to the students and staff they serve. Each day, we have to be flexible and creative to make sure we provide our students the best nutritious meal possible.”

FISD Dietitian Casey Perry agrees and points out that high nutrition standards continue to be a priority on each campus. If there is an emergency substitution that must be made to the menu based on what was planned versus what was delivered, the dietitians are readily accommodating and communicating to campuses how to make sure substitutions are nutritionally appropriate.

“Every complete meal served to students includes locally sourced food,” Perry said. “From the dough that rises each day for each personal-sized pizza, to the fresh chopped vegetables, café staff are giving students the best food we have to offer every day.”

Serving more meals than ever before is an excellent problem to have, considering the fantastic educational benefits, but the District is also doing it while extremely short staffed.

“We currently have more than 100 openings for full-time and part-time positions and we offer several perks that we hope will attract new employees,” said Lisa Jenkins, director of child nutrition. “For example, in a highly competitive housing market, child nutrition staff are able to enroll their children in FISD, whether they live in the bounds of the District or not. 

“In addition, our employees are working while their children are at school, no nights or weekends.”  

Sparks Elementary Cafe Supervisor Jennifer WilliamsJennifer Williams is the café supervisor at Sparks Elementary and left a job in retail to work in child nutrition more than five years ago. Her own children went to Frisco ISD schools and she spends each day treating the students as if they were her own children. 

On any given day, the cafeteria is decorated according to a fun theme. One of the student favorites is “talk like a pirate day” when the Sparks café staff wear costumes and talk like pirates.

Williams says it’s wonderful to be able to spread joy each day and feel the love from students and staff.

“I wouldn’t go back to retail because I’m having too much fun and I love my coworkers and students,” Williams said. “I would recommend this career path to anyone. It’s not often you can find a career where you can crank up the music and encourage dance parties on Fridays.”

Join the Child Nutrition Staff

Child Nutrition Job Fair 

  • Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 7:30-11:30 a.m.

  • Child Nutrition Service Center, 12050 Rolater Rd. Frisco, TX 75035

Apply now

 

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