On any given day on campus, Food Services Director Suzie Gerhardt and her kitchen staff can be found prepping meals for over 2,200 Circleville City School District (CCSD) students and staff.
Gerhardt, in her 15th year with the district in nutrition, spearheads a variety of course offerings that foster living a nutrition-based lifestyle among students and staff made up of healthy eating habits. For the food services department, this type of outreach – extended through food, smiles, and conversation – starts when the students arrive each day.
“When students come into our buildings we are the first [staff members] they see as they come in for breakfast,” said Gerhardt. “We provide them the necessary ‘brain fuel’ by providing them a nutritious meal to start the day to get them off on the right foot in the classrooms.”
During the first two weeks of school (August 16-August 31), kitchen staff saw an increase in school lunch counts district wide compared to that of a year ago – averaging approximately 1,600 meals per day. District meal offerings come in many forms. From breakfast and lunch offerings to salad bars, snacks for the Tiger Claw Café, and after school and kindergarten/preschool programs, healthy options and choices are the driving force behind the upswing in per day totals.
In ensuring that each individual meal is nutritious in value, a careful eye to detail must be had to adhere to state and federal guidelines in providing such options.
“We have to evaluate the menu choices to make sure we are compliant per the USDA guidelines,” said Gerhardt. “I have to make sure the average for the week is met for calories, saturated fats, sodium, as well as daily requirements. We have to have a certain amount of protein as well as grain-outs-equivalents, vegetables, beans and lagoons, fruits, and milk – each building with different guidelines for nutrition.”
In addition to daily breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, Circleville City School District food services also extends to the after school programs, summer school program, and the Pickaway County Educational Service Center’s ‘Pathways to Success’ program.
What food is to our district – for staff and students alike – is a conversation starter at the district dinner table. Food serves as the means for a mental break from school for conversations about weekend plans, upcoming sporting events, and familial bonding.
During any of the three CCSD lunch periods that is exactly what you will find – food and lighthearted conversation. Thanks to Gerhardt and her dedicated staff, they serve as the facilitators of such nutrition-based, social memories.