Public Schools in Aberdeen Get A Lunch Upgrade
Alexandra Hardle Aberdeen News
Published Sept. 1, 2021
The Aberdeen School District’s lunch program got an upgrade with the new school year.
After having a self-operated school lunch program for the past several years, the district has partnered with Lunchtime Solutions, a company based in the Midwest that services school districts in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri.
Superintendent Becky Guffin said while the district had gotten used having a self-operated lunch program, it decided to hire Lunchtime Solutions due to the company’s experience working with schools.
While many companies serve a variety of venues and customers, Lunchtime Solutions focuses on only K-12 school districts. This allows it to have a greater understanding of what families want and what kids want to eat, said area director Nicholas Lucart.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture school lunch guidelines have gotten more complex within the past few years, said Guffin.
The USDA has also extended free lunch waivers, a part of its COVID-19 response, through June 2022. That adds a new layer of complications when it comes to keeping up with the guidelines. Having another company keep up with the ever-changing regulations takes some of the burden off the school district staff. That’s one of Lunchtime Solution’s goals so staff can focus on educating the students, said Lucart.
The district hasn’t made any changes to its current meal prices with the change, and parents aren’t paying with the USDA program in place. Without that program, meal costs are $2.20 to $2.55 for breakfast and $3 to $3.45 for lunch. Cost varies for elementary, middle and high school meals.
Last year, students at the elementary schools only had one entrée option for lunch. This year, they have two — a hot entrée and either a “snackable” or sub sandwich.
Middle-school students had two options last year, and they now have four, consisting of two daily entrees, a daily sub sandwich and a salad.
High school students jumped from two options last year to eight options this year, and can pick from one entrée, three grilled sandwiches, two pizzas, a sub sandwich and a salad.
Under the USDA’s COVID-19 plan, students get a free entrée, a hot vegetable, unlimited access to the fruit and veggie bar and milk. Extra entrees, snacks and beverages can be purchased.
Some of the current menu items at Central High School, for example, include a crispy chicken sandwich and a grilled chicken salad. On the menu at O.M. Tiffany Elementary is a beef taco and ham and cheese deli round. Additionally, all schools in the school district are offering breakfast, which is also free to students through June 2022.
Guffin said that the menus run through a 21-day cycle, but that is subject to change due to supply chain issues that are a result of the pandemic.
Lunchtime Solutions prepares all its food locally. Some individual schools have kitchens big enough to prepare the food, while the rest is prepared in the district’s kitchens. Another benefit of having the company’s help, Lucart said, is that Lunchtime Solutions can make recommendations for equipment, as opposed to school district staff ensuring the kitchens are properly stocked.
Lunchtime Solutions area director Jennifer Hopf said that the feedback has so far been positive. Students are enjoying the food and are especially excited about the fruit and veggie bar, she said.
Guffin said students having different options allows them to have more ownership over their food and what they’re eating. Lucart added that the company presents students with healthy choices in the hopes that it translates to them making healthy choices outside of school.