Foodservice Operation of the Month

Get to know Seattle Public Schools’ Aaron Smith

See what’s in store for Smith’s district, which was named FSD’s October Foodservice Operation of the Month.
Aaron Smith
Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Schools

Here's what the future holds for Seattle Public Schools, in the words of Director of Culinary Services Aaron Smith.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

We’re looking to fully implement several things we have in motion. We want to really get our YouTube channel up and running, which we’re all excited about, as well as our food truck approved and operational. Those are two of the biggest new initiatives, but we’re also focused on continuing with community outreach and [bringing] creative items to our menu—that will always be an ongoing goal for us.

 

Q: Which pandemic-era lessons or operational changes will you bring forward?

We had to increase our number of suppliers during COVID, and I think that will help us continue to incorporate fresh ingredients and diverse ingredients. We’ve really carved out a niche for specialty items and that will absolutely continue.

On a broader level, the school food industry is tough, and I don’t think people always realize how much work we put into it to ensure students are fed. COVID highlighted some of the challenge and some of the importance in that way. I hope that the decisionmakers, not just in Seattle but everywhere, see this and realize how important school food is.

Q:  What makes your operation excel?

It’s my team, simple as that, and I want to note we are an extremely small team for a district this size. I feel I have the best people in the industry: Chef Emme [Collins] with all her dedication, our supervisors and just everyone across the board—everyone works extremely hard because they care a ton about the students.

Q: What have you learned from working through the COVID crisis?

A lot. COVID gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate our entire operation, from staffing and training to central kitchen to you name it. We scaled down to about 40 sites from over 100, and while that was challenging, it also gave us the chance to and meet with more people to get feedback. So the silver lining was that minute to sit back, reflect and say, “Instead of scaling back, let’s push forward with creative ideas.”  

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