By Michelle Rapoza
Food services director, Westport schools
School lunch at the Westport Community Schools seems like such a small piece of the educational part of the day, when in reality it is a large part of the day. Lunch time not only fills the nutritional part of each student’s day to help them be successful learners but it also becomes a unique social time for students to interact and build friendships.
The food service staff consists of 17 staff members throughout the four schools. Their years of service range from one to 29 years of food service experience. The food service staff takes an interest in each student and as the year progresses they begin to get to know each and every student. The food service staff becomes family to many of the students, even at the middle and high school levels.
Many Westport students let the food service staff know what they like and what they don’t like in their own special way. The food service staff has many responsibilities besides just warming up food and serving. Sometimes food service staff is not given the credit they deserve, nor do families, staff and students realize the effort they put into their daily job or the training they each receive.
The Westport food service staff receives Allergen training every two years or sooner depending on the allergen needs that are updated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They receive CPR training every two years for the safety of all students and staff. One of the most important trainings they receive is ServSafe Certification. The ServSafe Food Handler Program is a complete solution that delivers consistent food safety training to employees. The program covers five key areas: Basic food safety, personal hygiene, cross-contamination and allergens, time and temperature, and cleaning and sanitation.
The food service staff spends every day finding ways to make healthy, nutritious and appealing meals for every age group. The new nutritional guidelines and the cost of food and supplies can make their jobs difficult and challenging. Westport Food Service provides on an average of 22,000 meals per month, serving approximately 64 percent of the total student enrollment. The student price per meal for grades K-4 is $2, and grades 5-12 is $2.25.
Westport Community Schools participates in the National School Lunch Program which is a federally assisted meal program operating in over 100,000 public and non‐profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low‐cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each school day.
The Food and Nutrition Service administers the program at the federal level. At the state level, the National School Lunch Program is usually administered by state education agencies which operate the program through agreements with school food authorities.
The food service staff takes pride in the service they provide to each student and staff. I personally want to thank food service staff everywhere for their effort, devotion and knowledge that they provide to staff and students every day. Their work and devotion does not go unnoticed. Thank you.