Ten weeks of summer: Food and Nutrition Services prepares for 2014-2015 school year

FNSWhen flip flops replace sneakers as the go-to shoe, Baltimore County Public Schools shuts down for the summer, right? Not quite.

Of the school system’s 18,783 employees, 1,032 work in the BCPS central offices. While some of those 1,032 employees hold 10-month positions, most central office staff hold 12-month positions and spend the summer months preparing for the next school year.

For each of the 10 weeks of summer, a 12-month central office employee will answer a series of questions about his or her staff’s preparations and projects for the 2014-2015 school year. This week, Blake Lubinski, an intern in the Department of Communications and Community Outreach, interviewed Doreen Coyne, administrative secretary III of the Office of Food and Nutrition Services.

Blake Lubinski: “What is the role and structure of your office?”

Doreen Coyne: “The Office of Food and Nutrition Services (OFNS) plays a supporting role within the educational system. In September 1996, we adopted a mission statement to work together to provide nutritious and appetizing meals in a supportive and attractive atmosphere for the students of BCPS. We are committed to supporting the education of our children by promoting lifelong healthy attitudes and eating habits and providing our services in a clean, safe environment and in a cost-effective manner.

“The office has over 800 cafeteria employees, a food service warehouse in Cockeysville and a central office located at the Pulaski Business Park. Organizationally, it reports to the Executive Director of Fiscal Services, who is part of the Division of Business Services.”

BL: “What are the responsibilities of your office?”

DC: “The purpose of the OFNS is to administer and manage Baltimore County Public Schools’ child nutrition programs established by the Board of Education in accordance with the objectives, policies and procedures of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The programs administered by the OFNS include the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the After-School Care Snack Component and any other school food service agreements entered into by the Board of Education with MSDE or the federal government.”

BL: “How do those responsibilities change during the summer?”

DC: “During the summer, we concentrate on the Summer Food Service Program, which provides free and nutritious meals and snacks to youngsters 18 years of age and younger. These students reside in low-income areas and attend summer camps and summer school during July and early August when regular school is not in session. The Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the USDA, administers the Summer Food Service Program at the federal level. Locally, BCPS and the OFNS sponsor this free meal program.

“The office also has two meal production sites – Dundalk/Sollers Point High School and Woodlawn Middle School – open to prepare and distribute meals. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are prepared and packaged for distribution to 123 sites in the county.”

BL: “What projects does your office have planned for this summer?”

DC: “In addition to the Summer Food Service Program, the office prepares new school year menus, orders food and supplies for distribution to cafeterias, recruits and hires new cafeteria staff and purchases new food service equipment where needed.”

BL: “What are your office’s goals for the upcoming school year?”

DC: “We have four main goals for the upcoming school year. First, we are working to implement the new snack program for foods sold to students during the school day. Second, we are looking to continue to expand school breakfast to students in all grade levels and promote the in-classroom breakfast program with resources from MSDE. Third, we would like to promote the ‘Grab and Go’ breakfast model, allowing students to consume food during morning attendance and announcements in their classrooms. And, lastly, we are planning to work with the Department of Human Resources on implementing a recruitment plan to attract and retain a workforce to cover vacancies in the school cafeteria operations.”

BL: “How is your office preparing to meet those goals?”

DC: “We are preparing now to meet those goals by updating the Web page to include the new nutrition standards for foods and beverages available for sale to students during the school day; purchasing breakfast program materials, equipment and supplies to assist with offering breakfast in the classroom; and working with Human Resources to schedule recruitment sessions in the community for prospective employees to fill vacancies and substitute positions in school cafeterias.”

Working with an eye to the future – what a great way to spend the summer! Summers like these just go to show that there’s no such thing as a “slowdown” for Team BCPS!

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