Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) was awarded the District of Excellence in School Nutrition distinction by the School Nutrition Association for exceeding national best practice standards for school nutrition programs.
Currently, there are only 29 Districts of Excellence in the country. Harford County marks the 30th district – and the only district in Maryland this year – to make the distinguished list.
“We are extremely proud of this achievement,” said Superintendent Robert M. Tomback. “This honor highlights the quality of the food services and nutrition management at HCPS, and we will continue to strive to serve healthy, affordable meals to our students.”
The District of Excellence distinction recognizes school districts that complete a thorough self-assessment in four key areas: administration, communications and marketing, nutrition and nutritional education, and
operations. These areas make up the “Keys to Excellence” program.
Keys to Excellence is a national best practice standards program that is the core of the School Nutrition Association’s professional development and training programs. It allows for school districts to compare their food services program to the industry’s gold standard and to meet their goals to serve nutritious, tasty food in a cost-effective way. After completing the
Keys to Excellence, the district must submit an application that details its operations.
HCPS Supervisor of Food and Nutrition Gary Childress, HCPS Food and Nutrition Dietitian Karen Olsen and central staff in that department were responsible for assembling and submitting the material needed to apply for the award; however, all of the dedicated employees in the Food and Nutrition department contributed to earning the award.
“We are very proud of our staff and the dedication they provide every day to serve the students in the school system,” said Gary Childress. “This national recognition was the result of a team effort to meet the needs of our customers, the students and staff of HCPS.”
Nearly five million healthy meals are served during the school year at HCPS, and more than half a million dollars is allocated to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, HCPS participates in the Farm to School program, which provides students with food selections that include locally grown agricultural products.
For more information on the District of Excellence program, visit www.schoolnutrition.org.
This award is well deserved! At Aberdeen High School we were having some problems with the lunch lines being too long for the students to have time to finish eating. I sent Gary and email and he and a staff member came out to Aberdeen to meet with the principal, Tom Szerensits,the head cafeteria worker, and me, and solved the problem. Where else in the HCPS system can you get a response like that! Gary and his staff are phenominal. Something I learned is that the lunch program is self sufficient. Other than the school’s custodial staff, the lunch program pays for itself with the money it takes in. Congrats to Gary and his staff on a well deserved award!
The cafeteria workers at my kids’ school is great, but the food could in no way be described as “healthy.” Variations on chicken nuggets, hamburgers, various fried potato dishes and pizza every day are offered. The salad is iceberg and the fruit is colorless canned. I had to laugh at the menu that came home today with the “Harford County Maryland Grown” logo on it. I wonder what part of those frozen chicken nuggets and canned vegetables were grown in Harford County.
The “Harford County Maryland Grown” logo refers to greater efforts by the local school system and MSDE to place more locally grown fruits and vegetables on the menu. This is the second year of the emphasis and systems are being developed to make this a permanent part of the program.
Efforts have gone so far that certain areas of farm fields are being planted specifically for use in the HCPS food service program (cherry tomatoes) and some orchards are talking of exapnding to offer more products to the school system.