Cincinnati foodservice director makes school lunch healthy and kid-friendly

The foodservice director encourages students to personalize their meals, such as creating their own salad.

CINCINNATI—Striding past samples of Pop Tarts and pizza and cookies, Jessica Shelly made a beeline for a booth selling individually packaged sliced fruits and veggies. She picked up a pouch of sliced peaches and let out a yelp of delight. "This could be really fabulous," she said. "I'm thinking yogurt. I'm thinking granola. I'm thinking make-your-own breakfast parfait!" She waved the peaches around in the air triumphantly. People began to give us odd looks.

Before meeting Shelly, I hadn't known it was possible to muster quite this much enthusiasm for sliced peaches. Then again, someone with any less energy probably wouldn't be able to do Shelly's job: As the director of food services for Cincinnati's public schools, she is wholly responsibly for providing nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snacks to 34,000 public school students, three-quarters of whom are on free or reduced-price meals.

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In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

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