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Schools hire food service director

JULIE SUTOR

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit School District has hired a new food service director to run the school lunch program this year.Lyza Brackett has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and a Master of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences/Nutrition from Eastern Illinois University.”I’m really happy with the new food service director,” said Stacy Joyce, a parent and member of the district’s Food Service Advisory Team. “She has a real interest in nutrition and kids, so I think she’ll be great to work with.”Last year, the district contracted with Chartwells, a private food service company, to run the school lunch program. The board of education renewed the Chartwells contract last month, despite criticisms of its financial performance, employee morale and the nutritional quality of meals.The program lost about $140,000 last year, $51,000 of which the school district assumed. During the 2002-2003 school year, when the district ran the food service program itself, it lost about $100,000.Students were enthusiastic about Chartwells’ cafeteria offerings, particularly at Summit High School. However, a group of parents grew highly critical of selections high in fat and sodium they felt appeared too regularly on menus.Brackett said that nutrition will be a high priority for her in her new position.”It’s important that children have a better understanding of a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “Right now, they’re learning the eating habits they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”Brackett has taught nutrition at Metro State College in Denver and served as a dietary coordinator in a geriatric facility. She has also spent time as a substitute teacher in Denver Public Schools.”The hiring committee concluded that her passion for children, nutrition and education, along with her varied work experience, made her a perfect fit for this position,” said Karen Dickey, district human resources director.The school district’s new agreement with Chartwells calls for monthly meetings of a newly created Food Service Advisory Team made up of parents and staff.”I’m glad we’re having menu planning meetings once a month, so we can get regular feedback on offerings,” Joyce said. “We are focusing on reducing sodium and fat, while increasing the nutritious quality of the meals. The salad bars at the elementary and middle schools will emphasize colorful, fresh produce.”Beginning in October, the committee will asterisk one item on school menus each day that falls within the American Heart Association guidelines for heart-healthy eating.Brackett has already gained the confidence of food service staff who unionized this summer out of frustration over friction with the previous director. “I feel really positive about (Brackett),” said Lori Cutunilli, a substitute food service worker. “She’s very friendly and has good energy. That’s going to go a long way this year.”Cutunilli, who sat on the interview committee for the director position, served as spokeswoman for dissatisfied employees during the spring and summer. She plans to organize a union membership drive among food service staff when school begins.Brackett is not familiar with all the details of last year’s controversies, but she’s confident in her abilities to foster a good relationship with the staff.”I’m very open. That’s one of my strengths,” Brackett said.Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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