While students were enjoying their summer vacation, staff members at Hemet Unified School District (HUSD) were preparing for the new school year. HUSD’s Nutrition Services Department has been working tirelessly throughout the summer providing meals for students, preparing healthy foods for the upcoming school year, and working with families to fill out the appropriate paperwork for their student’s meals.
Nutrition Services, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, offered the Seamless Summer Meal Program. This program provided free meals during the summer to all children 18 years and younger. During June and July meals were available at eight locations to ensure children had access to nutritious meals throughout the summer. Harold Sullins, Director of Nutrition Services, said his department served 42,483 meals, a 4.4% increase from the previous year.
Nutrition Services offers My School Bucks to pay for their child’s food during the school day, in an effort to make things easier for parents. This company allows parents to pay for meals online, set low balance alerts, and view transaction history.
Hemet Unified was one of the first cohorts to participate in the Center of Ecoliteracy’s California Thursday initiative. The Center of Ecoliteracy wanted districts to provide meals to students featuring ingredients from California farmers. HUSD’s Nutrition Services is currently partnered with Old Grove Orange in Redlands, C & R Farms, and Park Hill Ranch in Hemet. It uses various fruits and vegetables from these farms in their meals. Aside from providing local ingredients, up to half of the food provided from Nutrition Services is made in-house.
In the 2013-14 school year, fourteen elementary schools in Hemet Unified received a Healthy US School Challenge Award. This award is good for five years; once the time has elapsed the district must re-apply. The district also received the 2015 Innovation Award from the Center of Ecoliteracy for their participation in California Thursday. It was recognized for the approach it took in implementing California Thursday and its innovative strategies. Nutrition Services would repurpose its equipment to help mass produce healthier options to students’ district-wide. For example, staff used the pizza oven to roast vegetable in an effort to speed up the process. In August, the Nutrition Services team will be presenting in Oceanside to the new California Thursday cohort on its success within the district.
Sullins and his team are working towards more student and parent engagement. By the end of the school year, each site will have a digital menu board. This will allow students to rate a food item, provide nutritional education, and display healthy recipes. The feedback will be instrumental in providing quality food that students enjoy.
If parents have any questions regarding school meals, applications, or signing up for My School Bucks, please contact the Nutrition Department at 765-5100 ext. 5302.