Recently I was notified that the Amherst, Pelham, and Amherst-Pelham Regional School (all 3 of our districts) will be getting an administrative review this year. In short, that means a comprehensive audit from the state, which occurs every three years. I recently learned first-hand that this is no small feat!
Yesterday I spent the day at Holyoke Community College at an all-day training with the Department of Education. We covered all the regulations and requirements associated with meal access and reimbursement, meal pattern and nutritional quality, general program compliance, financial resource management, and procurement. If I said that these topics are complex, it would be an understatement!
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry, K-12 school food is the most regulated part of the entire food system. There are rules for the minimum and maximum amount of grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and milk that we serve each day and each week. There are strict rules about where and how we can purchase those foods and it takes quite a bit of time to open each individual Purchase Order that follows the state-mandated procurement (purchasing) practices.
To navigate all of these regulations takes a great deal of time, knowledge, and positivity above all else. It’s easy to feel bogged by all of the bureaucracy and red tape that comes with the school food industry. Yet at the end of the day, these are all #adultproblems. It’s not fair to the kids and families in our district to use this as an excuse for not serving healthy, local, and delicious meals each day.
Staying positive is key. Keeping the ship moving forward is my directive. It might be bumpy waters at times, since so many things need special attention all at once. However, I want to assure you that each day our children will be offered a nutritious and delicious meal that is cooked by our phenomenal kitchen staff.
This year certainly has its fair share of challenges ahead, especially now with a 6-day (minimum!) state-mandated audit on the horizon. But that cannot and will not stop us from achieving our vision. Together, we will continue making improvements to our school meals here in the Amherst, Pelham, and the Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools. The best is still to come!
Director of Food Service for Amherst, Pelham, and the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District. We'll be posting updates to the program as we go along!.