Late last year FSD had the chance to visit Melanie Konarik, director of child nutrition for the Spring Independent School District in Houston. Spring ISD, the 2008 District of the Year award recipient from the School Nutrition Association, has made great strides to make its menus healthier and student friendly, to train its staff, and design engaging and inviting dining spaces. Here’s a look at what the district has been up to.
When FSD visited, Konarik and her staff had recently moved into a brand new facility for the child nutrition department. One of the highlights of the building is the new training kitchen, where newly hired employees learn how to prepare the district’s recipes.
In addition to being a training center, the kitchen at the new building also prepares food for the Early College Academy high school, as well as lunch for staff at the building.
The cafeteria at Spring High School has recently been remodeled. The cafeteria uses a scatter concept to serve the schools 3,200 students. There are several different lines, with each line offering a different type of menu. For example, one line is the Fiesta line, which serves ethnic items such as egg rolls and Asian entrées. Each line offers reimbursable meals.
Konarik has emphasizes healthy eating in the 17 years that she’s been with the district. Fruit, in general, is offered in its whole form and not precut or sliced.
Instead of salad bars, Spring prepackages its entrée salad, because Konarik says this eliminates contamination of salad bars. She also says it’s quicker for students to get through the lines if the salads are available for grab and go.
Dekaney High School was built five years ago. Konarik says this school’s cafeteria is representative of how she would like all the high school cafeterias to look in the future. The cafeteria features multiple lines—all serving reimbursable meals—with an open feeling.
The serving lines feature a curved structure to create a restaurant feel.
Drop-down, colored lighting also adds a restaurant feel to the school’s servery.
Dekaney’s kitchen is huge. It is so large that Konarik had to add another refrigerator to accommodate workers on the far end of the kitchen, who were spending too much valuable serving time walking the length of the kitchen to get to the original refrigerator.