District Ambassadors Eat Lunch

The District Ambassadors recently learned how the restaurant known as Carroll County Food Services operates. Food Services Director Angela Adkins enlightened the group on how a school district’s nutrition program operates.

“We are a restaurant inside a school district. We’re like McDonald’s with a lot of federal rules,” she said with a smile and chuckle. The food services program is self-sufficient, meaning it does not receive funding from the district. Nearly all of the funding for the department is from the federal government.

Carroll County has Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) status, which means all students receive free breakfast and lunch. Federal funding pays for the free meals.

Adkins reviewed the history of the school lunch and breakfast programs with the ambassadors, explained upgrades she has made since taking the helm two years ago and detailed how many students are eating lunch at school.

Traditionally, high school students eat fewer breakfast meals, but Carroll County is not following that trend. Adkins said 47% of our high schoolers eat breakfast daily. “I don’t know if it’s the free coffee or what. They’re hungry and they want to come in and eat,” she said.

Carroll County Schools Superintendent Casey Jaynes added that, “food service in our district is such an important part of our students’ day. Our food service team provides healthy meal options that students enjoy while staying within the federal guidelines.” 

Middle and high schoolers have a la carte choices daily while Cartmell is limited and none are offered at Winn.

One popular choice at the middle and high school is the new pizza made from scratch. “The pizza ovens are a big hit. You do 100 per hour or less. We cook by lunch wave so the kids always have a fresh option,” Adkins said. Students and staff also have options for salads, fresh fruits and other snack items.

Equipment upgrades have broadened the types of food that can be offered. “I was quite shocked at the age of the equipment and the amount of broken equipment in the kitchens,” Adkins said. “It’s been my goal to upgrade existing equipment or purchase equipment. In some cases I couldn’t get a date of when it was purchased because it was so old it had already fallen off the depreciation scale.” Adkins has secured approximately $70,000 in grants to purchase equipment.

Some of the updated items are very expensive, such as the $26,000 ovens added at CCHS. “They are a dream,” Adkins said. The ovens can steam, air fry and bake 10 racks of food at a time.

The new ovens were used last year to make beef roast, which cooked overnight and made the school smell delicious the next day. “We’re bringing back home cooking within our capability,” Adkins said.

The food services department was featured nationally on two occasions last year, once for the Farm to School program and another when Adkins was featured as a guest speaker at a national conference.

The department's commitment to local sourcing, showcased through partnerships with Double H Farms, Trackside Butcher Shoppe and the FFA-operated hydroponic greenhouse underscore its support for the Farm to School program. All of this is paid for by a $20,000 grant Adkins secured. Once a month, food services offer the Manager’s Choice option. This includes only products from farmers within the United States.

“I would love to find somebody, even if it was one time a year, to supply broccoli or bell peppers or something like that,” Adkins said, noting she would need about 120 pounds of broccoli to fulfill her needs.

Food Services will also offer a summer feeding option this year, but it will differ from the products shipped to homes in the summer of 2023. These items will be shelf stable rather than frozen.

“Food service looks for ways to keep our students fed even when school is out,” Adkins said. The mail service meals are federally reimbursed. “At least the students have food options and a lot of them need that little bit extra, especially now with increased grocery costs,” according to Adkins.

The kitchen staff at each school work very hard and are often understaffed, Adkins said, noting she has even had to enlist the help of board members and central office staff to serve food some days. She said they do accept volunteer workers, but a background check must be completed first.

The breakfast and lunch menus for each school can be found at this link https://www.carroll.kyschools.us/o/ccs/page/school-nutrition.