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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : special coverage : special coverage August 19, 2014


2/14/2012 11:10:00 AM
Nutrition top goal for Clarkdale-Jerome menu (with video and photo gallery)
Analysis system keeps meals healthful, age appropriate
Video Length 3 Minutes, 5 Seconds Food service employees at Clarkdale-Jerome School cook nutritious meals each school day. Not only do they have to prepare food the kids will eat but they also have to meet strict federal nutritional guidelines for every meal.
Clarkdale-Jerome operates as an independent food service instead of contracting out menu planning and meal preparation. Striking that balance between what kids want and what they need falls to Mitzi Volk, Food Service manager, and her staff. She has a system in place that helps her and her staff meet these goals. VVN/Jon Pelletier
Clarkdale-Jerome operates as an independent food service instead of contracting out menu planning and meal preparation. Striking that balance between what kids want and what they need falls to Mitzi Volk, Food Service manager, and her staff. She has a system in place that helps her and her staff meet these goals. VVN/Jon Pelletier
The Clarkdale-Jerome School food service staff prides itself on preparing food the kids will eat but which also have meets strict federal nutritional guidelines for every meal. VVN/Jon Pelletier
The Clarkdale-Jerome School food service staff prides itself on preparing food the kids will eat but which also have meets strict federal nutritional guidelines for every meal. VVN/Jon Pelletier
+ view more photos
Food service employees at Clarkdale-Jerome School cook nutritious meals each school day. Not only do they have to prepare food the kids will eat but they also have to meet strict federal nutritional guidelines for every meal.

Philip Wright
Staff Reporter


CLARKDALE - Feeding school-age kids at home - even an appetizing and nutritious meal - is far simpler than it is at school. Parents know what their children like. They also know what they want their children to eat. It isn't always easy. Sometimes it's a bit of a struggle striking a balance between what children want and what they need.

Imagine multiplying that task to serving about 350 children - from kindergarten through eighth grade - both breakfast and lunch.

That's what the food service employees at Clarkdale-Jerome School do each school day. Not only do they have to prepare food the kids will eat but they also have to meet strict federal nutritional guidelines for every meal.

At Clarkdale-Jerome School, the food service staff prides itself on doing exactly that.

Superintendent Kathleen Fleenor says it is one thing to select foods high in nutrition. "The trick is to make the menu tasty enough that the kids will eat."

Clarkdale-Jerome operates as an independent food service instead of contracting out menu planning and meal preparation. Striking that balance between what kids want and what they need falls to Mitzi Volk, Food Service manager, and her staff. She has a system in place that helps her and her staff meet these goals.

"We are on the Nutrikids Menu Planning and Nutritional Analysis System," Volk said. "In a nutshell, we are divided between two grade categories, kindergarten through fifth and sixth through eighth."

She said that targets are set for calories, sodium, fiber, fat, vitamins and nutrients both daily and weekly.

"With the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) guidelines, I can program in a meal and check the nutrient analysis," Volk said. She can then make changes needed to hit the nutritional target to assure the children are getting everything they need daily within the nutrient standards.

Volk plans menus a month in advance, and each meal must hit those nutrition standards for each age group.

The federal standards are changing every year toward increasingly nutritious menus. Reducing obesity in children is one of the national goals.

"With our kids, we really don't have much of an obesity problem," Fleenor said. "Our kids are very active." She said the children at Clarkdale-Jerome are good about eating fruit and vegetables.

Volk attends an A-Plus nutritional class every year. She said that some of the changes the NSLP is pushing are higher fiber, lower fat and lots of fruits and vegetables.

"We're trying to get away, as much as we can, from processed foods because they're very high in sodium and fats," Volk explained.

"It's important for us to get back to that home cooking and introduce new things to the kids so that they have a healthier, nutritional meal."

She said that being an independent food service operation helps the staff accomplish this goal.

"We can create our own menus and put out what we feel those kids need to hit our targets," Volk said.

Volk says the kids aren't left out of the menu process. "The children here in our school have a lot of input in what we do," she said. "I do put out surveys to see what they like."

Part of the reason that Volk and her staff take their jobs so seriously is because many families have fallen on hard times.

"We want the parents to know that their kids are getting a good, nutritious meal twice a day, their breakfast and their lunch," Volk said. "We pride ourselves on that."

Volk explained that about 50 percent of the school's students are on free or reduced breakfast and lunch.

Holly Howard, food service cook, feels that the educational component of the school's food program is very important.

"I find the most interesting part about this job is working with the kids and explaining to them the difference between what's good, and what's not good for you," Howard said.

She said that during breakfast she explains why the fruits and vegetables are better for the kids.

Howard said it has been interesting this school year to see that the kids understand what she's teaching. She said the kids do take more fruits and vegetables with their breakfast and lunch.

"They understand it's better for you, it fills them up, it doesn't slow them down as much," she said.

"I usually work more with the kindergarten through third grades," Howard said. She said she finds that age group exciting for her to work with because they're excited to actually learn something and use it.

"They tell their friends, 'Hey, I had peaches for breakfast,'"

Howard hopes the kids are using what they learn at home as well. "They want to show mom and dad what they've learned. They want to get mom and dad included in what they're doing."

Volk has 19 years in food service, and she knows that it takes more than menus and analysis systems to make the school's food program work.

"I have a very dedicated team in our food service," Volk said, "and working together is why it works."


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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Article comment by: That 1 Guy

I remember working in the cafeteria for CHAMPS at CJS. It made me glad my mom packed my lunch for me everyday. except pizza day

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Article comment by: Appalled and disappointed

My jaw literally dropped when I read this article. I have a child who attends Clarkdale Jerome school and let me tell you that this article could not be further from the truth. Would you consider Nachos and fake chicken nuggets healthy? What about constantly running out of food for the older children and then serving them frozen, yes I did say frozen, bologna and cheese sandwich instead? And when we did approach the staff with concerns, we were told it was better than fast food that most parents feed their kids and how they follow all the guidelines from the FDA. How nice of them to assume that the only thing that all parents feed their kids is fast food. They fail to mention the kickbacks schools receive from the government to to serve that food. Needless to say, nothing changed and now they get this wonderful write up about them in the paper. Everything they serve is frozen, processed and can barely even be considered food. I am embarrassed for them.



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