Bloom-Carroll Schools ahead of the curve
Many food services personnel and schools tout their innovative ways they have upgraded the nutritional meals they offer in their cafeterias. Bloom-Carroll Schools have been doing these very things for the last five years ago under the guidance of Marilyn Enyart, their Food Services Supervisor. Marilyn has been a food service employee at Bloom-Carroll Schools since 1996. She began to change the nutrition of the meals served in her schools as soon as she was unexpectedly moved into the position as Food Service Supervisor in 2009. Her dedication to serve healthier meals was the primary goal of the changes she instituted at Bloom-Carroll Schools. Maintaining four kitchens was a daunting task, but Marilyn stepped up and took the reigns to make sure the staff was up to grade, the kitchens were clean and well maintained, and the meals served were the best she could create for the students and staff. Making a more nutritious meal was paramount to Marilyn as she studied the nutrition level of menu items and their impact on a healthy, well balanced diet. Combining the right entrees with the right side dishes makes for one great tasting and nutritious meal. Marilyn has done this and the participation shows it. Nearly a 15 percent increase in lunches in a year and almost a 30 percent increase in breakfasts in the first year! These percentages have risen each subsequent year.
Even with the ever changing rules and regulations, Marilyn has stayed on top of the challenges to make lunches both nutritious and appetizing. Guidelines are met, portions are adequate, and taste it paramount in her quest to create a menu that the children find appealing. This creates a standard that keeps the students coming back for the creative delicious meals prepared with love in the kitchens at Bloom Carroll Schools.
Many children do not receive a hot cooked meal at home and have to fend for themselves. We know they may choose fatty or unhealthy foods for a quick meal or snack, so having at least one healthy meal available to them at school is very important. Marilyn makes sure they are offered two, breakfast and lunch, every day. Marilyn promoted eating breakfast at school in 2010. She added a grab n go breakfast menu to her lunch menu to let parents know that their child could get breakfast at school. She chose the best breakfast items available to sell to the students and Marilyn sent out notices letting the parent and students know the cost, the choices, and the importance of a healthy start to the day, which helps increase alertness for better learning and improved grades. Since 2010, the participation at breakfast has increased over 300 percent.
Fresh fruit is offered daily as a side choice at Bloom-Carroll Schools under the direction of Marilyn since 2009. This was done prior to the new laws being instituted and is just another aspect of her intuitive methods of changing the nutrition level in her kitchens. New menu items are always being added to keep the students from getting bored with the same old thing. Lasagna, a burrito bar, chicken and noodles, baked potatoes, and more items have been introduced with a huge success. Marilyn wants to evolve the old standard menu to reflect the diverse tastes of the new generations and put some flare into their lives. This creates an interest in eating school lunches, which in turn gives students and staff an exciting menu to look forward to each month.
A few more initiatives currently being put together are installing a salad bar or fresh sandwich bar in the High School. The cost to make this happen with help from the “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” program if it is equally for everyone and not just certain preferred schools. Another goal is making EZ-Pay the main way to pay for lunches. Marilyn has promoted EZ-Pay in her newsletters and to students and parents to encourage participation in this program and has seen a dramatic increase in participation. Massive charges and non-payments, which were common place for years, have declined to a respectable number due to Marilyn’s commitment to end this income loss.
Marilyn plans to compile a data base to detail each item on a lunch or breakfast with complete details on nutrition content, ingredients, caloric content, as well as being able to let parents know if there are any allergy concerns for their children. Such a program would greatly benefit her to inform the students and parents. Marilyn has to put in all of her nutritional information and create a report for each days menu, so she can make sure she is meeting all new nutritional requirements for school menus.
She felt it was her responsibility to make sure her menus reflected a low fat, high nutrition standard she had set. Her goal to create great nutritional meals to offer the students attending Bloom-Carroll Schools drove Marilyn to study nutrition, attend college, and earn a School Foodservice Manager Certificate, a SNA Level 3 Certification, and she is currently working on her SNS. Marilyn feels that continually increasing her knowledge and understanding of nutrition and the new laws, which keep changing, is extremely important in her career and life.
Another healthy initiative Marilyn did was to have the deep fryers removed from her kitchens. Cutting out all deep fried foods, she decided to have french fries, chicken nuggets and such baked in the ovens to decrease fatty foods on her menus. Serving a healthy nutritious meal to the students and staff at Bloom-Carroll Schools is the goal. But, not an easy task with the limited resources at hand and with vending machines in the halls full of less than healthy foods and sodas and fast food restaurants near the school. Marilyn has lobbied to have all vending machines shut off during school hours to eliminate the less healthy alternative to buying a hot health lunch or breakfast from the school. This matter is still being considered by the school board.
Bloom Carroll Schools are very fortunate to have such a dedicated Food Services Coordinator like Marilyn Enyart. Her efforts have greatly increased the nutritional level in daily lunch and breakfast choices served in her schools, which have been well received both by students and staff. She works hard at her job, often working late or at home, and plans to continue her education on nutrition to learn all she can to make educated decisions about the nutrition of meals she puts together.