District's free meals program on hold due to contact negotiation

Vermont district's hope to start Community Eligibility Option stalls after state child nutrition office determines starting the program would require a rebid for the management company.

BARRE,Vt.—Plans to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students at Barre City Elementary and Middle School starting in the fall have hit a snag because of one of the requirements for participating in the federally subsidized “community eligibility” program.

The school board learned of the glitch on a night when members also agreed to rethink a plan to make a radical scheduling change next fall and were told the district was boasting a sizable surplus heading into the fourth quarter of this fiscal year.

In something of a good-news-bad-news update, George Mackey, of food service contractor Fitz Vogt & Associates, told the board that the city’s pre-K-through-8 school more than qualifies for a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to provide free meals to all students in eligible schools.

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Ideas and Innovation
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On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
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We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
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Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

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