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Ironton Board taking look at improving food service

The Ironton Board of Education

agreed Tuesday night to hire a consultant to help them improve the district's food service program.

Judi Schott, a former teacher who started Child Nutrition Services, Inc. 17 years ago, will work with the district's food service personnel to improve meals and bring more federal monies into the district to pay for food.

Schott said there are various grants available for food service programs, but often information about funding sources doesn't filter down from state and federal agencies to local school districts who might benefit from new monies.

"They're doing a good job, they just want to do it a little better," Schott,

said after making a presentation to the board about her initial recommendations.

One of Schott's suggestions for improvements will likely be implemented in the district at some point this year: the district may begin offering a free breakfast to all children in kindergarten through third grade.

"It's good for the kids. It gets them ready to learn, and I think it will be good for the district," Superintendent Dean Nance said.

Schott suggested the district even incorporate the meal into the regular school day, instead of offering it before school. She said many children often do not eat breakfast before coming to school and arrive too late to eat it there. Schott said some teachers in other districts were apprehensive at first about having young children opening little plastic containers of cereal and cartons of milk at their desks in the classroom while trying to study, but later realized the benefits outweighed the potential for spills.

"This is the new trend in school breakfasts," Scott said. "The kids eat it in the classroom. It can be delivered in totes. It takes about 10 minutes to deliver it. If you incorporate it into the school day it could help the children and help your bottom line."

Schott said Ohio is 47th out of the 50 states in the number of kids who eat breakfast at school, and the United States Department of Agriculture has threatened the cut Ohio's funding for breakfast programs because of this.

Schott also said the district could boost its income and improve nutrition by restructuring the food offerings at the middle school, junior high and senior high school. Right now, students can choose to buy items a la carte, and pay for only an item or two of food, or they can purchase an entire meal and pay more money to get a more balanced meal.

"They could pick up money that they're right now leaving on the table," Schott said.

Another suggestion is that the After School Malls offer a free snack and obtain grant monies to pay for this as well.

District officials opted to hire a consultant because the food service program had been operating with a negative budget.

Nance said he is pleased with the way the district's food service staff are working together and with Schott to make improvements.

"I'm tickled to death with the way the cooks and the staff have gotten on board and are working as a team to improve things as a district," Nance said. "If we can do better for our students, then we will."