Walk into any Jamestown Public School cafeteria between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and you will see students eating and socializing. But what many students and parents don't realize is much planning, preparation and thought is put into each meal served in the district.
"We work very hard to provide nutritious and great-tasting food to each of our students. Our motto is 'School Meals, We Serve Education Every Day!'" said Walt Gaczewski, director of food services. "Everyone knows that having a good breakfast and lunch helps students do better in school. Research has shown that students who eat school meals perform their best academically. School meals also help students maintain a healthy weight because they tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and try new foods that they might not have the opportunity to do at home."
The JPS Food Service Department is a fully self-funded program. Revenue is generated from reimbursements from free, reduced and paid meals. Funding is based on the Consumer Price Index and the increases each year are usually very small compared to the increase in costs. The department's job is to provide healthy and tasty meals to JPS students on limited funding. An important piece to this is the free and reduced meal application process. The free/reduced meal applications are available at jamestownpublicschools.org under the "Food Services Department" and from each school's main office.
Fletcher Elementary school student Bethany Nash enjoys her wheat toast during breakfast.
"Last year, our free and reduced meal applications were 72 percent in the district. I forecast that this year they will be closer to 80 percent," said Mr. Gaczewski. "Many of the grants and funding we receive is based on our free and reduced meal percentage. Free and reduced meals are paid for through federal and state funding. We do not want any child to go without a meal so we encourage anyone who might qualify for free and reduced meals to apply."
School meals provide an assortment of foods including daily meal salads, fruits and vegetables. School meals are healthy, meeting the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans. There have been many healthy nutritional changes made to the Jamestown Schools' menus for this school year, with more to come. Just a few changes include:
no deep fried foods
use of beans as a protein (example: brown rice with black or pinto beans)
no hot dogs
increase fruit choices and decrease fruits and vegetable prices - at lunch, fresh fruit offered daily and at breakfast, fresh fruit offered daily in addition to 100 percent fruit juice
all breads a minimum of 51 percent whole grains
all products are trans-fat free
all snacks must meet the "Choose Sensibly" Guidelines including: less than 7g Fat, less than 2 g saturated fat, 0 trans fat, less than 15g sugar, less than 360 mg sodium and only one serving per package.
On the updated district website, the Food Service Department has included information including nutrient breakdowns.
Breakfast is offered at all Jamestown Public Schools. Studies conclude that students who eat breakfast increase their math and reading scores as well as improve their speed and memory in cognitive tests. Evidence also shows that students who eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, and have improved nutrition throughout the day.
JPS has a new breakfast menu. Taken off the breakfast menu is: all donuts, honey buns, high sugar cereal, white bread, and at the elementary schools, no chocolate milk. The district has added scrambled eggs and omelets, bagels with cream cheese or trans-fat free margarine, hot bagel and English muffin sandwiches with egg, reduced-sugar cereals, fresh and canned fruit (packed in juice or light syrup) and a minimum of 50 percent whole grain bread.
The district's Wellness Policy specifically address nutrition and healthy eating as part of the district's commitment to providing a school environment that promotes and protects children's health, well-being, and the ability to learn by fostering healthy eating and physical activity. Part of the district's Wellness Policy specifically addresses nutrition and healthy eating including:
Ala carte cafeteria sales
Vending machines (only to be operational after all lunch periods are concluded for the day),
Classroom parties and special events
"Parents are role models and influence what kids eat: Encourage healthy eating and lifestyles at home for you and your children. As part of our district's policies we encourage nutrition education and follow that up in the cafeterias," said Mr. Gaczewski. "All updated school menus are on the Jamestown Public Schools website in a convenient button off the home page. All other information is under the Food Services Department link on the website."