Tasty, Nutritious Did Not Always Describe School Lunches


School lunches (and breakfasts) are not what they used to be. They're really good, both from a nutritional and taste standpoint.

Sodexho School Services contracts with Payson Unified School District to provide meals to Payson students.

Sodexho's on-site manager, Bill Helmintoller, said that, "Every school has no less than five entrees daily:

  • Chicken filet sandwich on whole wheat bun
  • Hamburger on whole wheat bun
  • Entree salad
  • Sandwich or sub

The middle school and high school also offer items such as pizza, tacos, burritos, hot dogs and many more items daily.

In addition, a daily offerings bar at each school, available to any student or adult that eats from the menu, consists of garden salad, carrots, tomatoes, celery, onions, cucumber, fresh and canned fruit, condiments and dressing.

Breakfast items include a hot entree, cold cereal, yogurt, bagels, fresh fruit and orange juice. One percent milk (chocolate or plain) is always on the menu for breakfast and lunch.

Menus reflect both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and student preferences. A USDA-approved computer program called Nutrikid assists in menu planning and assuring that menus meet the required nutritional standards. An Internet-based point-of-service system, www.mymeal-time.com allows parents to pay for their students' meals online, check their students' food choices and see the balance in their account at any time.

Payson Schools and Sodexho are justifiably proud of the variety and quality of the cafeteria offerings, Helmintoller said.

The cafeterias themselves are clean, student-centered places where food is served by friendly, smiling staff. Adults are welcome to dine with their students for $l.50 at breakfast and $2.50 at lunch. There's no better deal in town, he said.

Besides great food and surroundings, the Child Nutrition Office is responsible for determining whether students qualify for free or reduced meals. Every family in the district should fill out a free and reduced meal application. Determining whether the student qualifies for free or reduced meals contributes to district funding from sources such as the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Most federal funding, much state funding and many private grants use the district's free and reduced lunch percentage to determine eligibility and funding levels. An accurate count on the number of free and reduced meal-eligible students brings dollars to Payson schools.

In the case of No Child Left Behind, that amounts to nearly $750,000 annually.

Helmintoller stresses that, "All free and reduced meal eligibility data is held in the strictest confidence. Only the numbers of students that qualify, not their names, are included in district reports."

Completing the free and reduced application is especially important at the high school level where many students that regularly eat off-campus may quality for free or reduced meals.

Even if the student never eats in the cafeteria, if he/she qualifies for free and reduced meals, that student adds to our accurate count of eligible students for federal, state and private funding.

Parents should not take offense at being asked to fill out the application or simply assume that they do not qualify or decide that their student will never eat at the cafeteria anyway.

The few minutes it takes to complete the application can bring more dollars to Payson schools' classrooms. It's a win-win situation all around.

For more information on the PUSD school cafeterias or to arrange catering for an event (yes, they do that, too), contact the Child Nutrition Office at (928) 472-5703.

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