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Experts Hired to Spice Up School Lunches

Following a two-year push by parents and staff to improve the quality of lunch fare throughout the district, the school board on Tuesday agreed to hire a registered dietician for six months to develop the nutrition and culinary skills of its staff beginning in January.

Dietician Megan Hartshorne’s pay is underwritten by Schoolpower, said Gerald Vlasic, director of human resources. She’ll provide workshops and training to the district’s nutrition services department staff on subjects such as batch cooking, serving presentation, and USDA nutritional requirements.

Additionally, she’ll help to implement a Meals Plus Software program and get involved in outreach to families about nutrition as well as attempt to popularize school lunches, said Vlasic.

Hartshorne is the second new hire for the nutrition department this year. Last month, the district contracted with registered dietician Melissa Manning to analyze whether lunches meet the state nutrition standards to ensure that the district gets reimbursed $.06 per lunch.

At the same time, Schoolpower funding is also underwriting improvements at Thurston Middle School’s planned Wave Rider Café, which will feature a grab and go case of sandwiches and other healthy ready-to-eat items as an alternative to the lunch line for time-pressed students.

School board member Jan Vickers highlighted this series of changes in school food service at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We are taking the steps that we can take,” she said, to incorporate recommendations from a special nutrition committee that included parents and staff.

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