The estimated reading time for this post is 2 minutes
On Thursday, the leadership for Team 21C met with Mark Chavez, director of Nutrition Services, to learn more about the changes and the progress that his department has seen over the last couple of years. As the head of a department that ensures delivery of 12 million meals a year, time is tight, but Mark shared his vision over, what else, lunch.
One item that stood out and resonated with the team was Mark’s clear view of the role that Nutrition Services has in ensuring the success of our students and the importance of creating menus and choices that the students will enjoy and eat. As shown on many campuses throughout the district, there is a tendency for some of the students to opt out of the lunch program. How do you get 56,000 students to come together and participate in one of the most important and simplest measures of creating an environment that helps ensure student success? Simple. Ask the customer. The students know what they want, the challenge lies in creating menu choices that meet these wants while balancing the need to deliver healthy, nutritious choices to maximize their learning potential.
The notion that Nutrition Services is focused on creating buzz and word of mouth marketing underscores the commitment Mark and his team have towards getting students to buy back into the lunch program. Our students are consumers of the products that we provide for them. Whether it’s instruction, meals, facilities, or services or students represent the end consumers of the products of what we create at all levels in the district. Fortunately Mark and the Nutrition Services team have been working on ways to provide access to the resources that they are providing to all of the students of SAUSD.
Many of our staff members throughout the district have a shared experience growing up utilizing free or reduced lunch programs. For many, they were faced with the stigmatizing option of using a special ticket or line choices that labeled them as students in need of assistance. This choice put many in the position of having to label themselves as different and to draw attention to circumstances that were beyond their control and for many, they chose to avoid lunch altogether. In the recent past, students were passed applications during class time and families were required to apply for the program every year. Thankfully this is a thing of the past as Mark breaks the news that every student in SAUSD, regardless of family income level, is provided with up to three meal options (breakfast, lunch, and an after-school snack) through the Community Eligibility Provision. This program saves families money, prevents potential student embarrassment and ensures that each student has a full stomach to fuel learning.