From implementing changes in the arrangement of food in the cafeteria to the way school district business offices apply for reimbursement, school districts are working to be more efficient while serving affordable and healthy food.
With more than 5 million students returning to about 9,500 Texas schools, millions of breakfasts and lunches are being served every day.
Just less than two months ago, updated national standards for school nutrition went into effect from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act. Although the Act was passed in 2010, new standards have been added each year. This year, a whole cup of fruit must be offered at breakfast, and all breads need to be rich in whole grains and lower in sodium. The new regulation addressing calories, saturated and trans fats, salt and sugars, applies to all foods. So to address the new healthy options requirements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools whether in vending machines, cafeterias, school stores or for fundraising.
From accounting for indirect food costs and increasing meal appeal to minimizing plate waste, schools are strategizing to ensure that these new meal standards are successfully implemented, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.*
Many districts are working to ensure students have the energy and stamina to learn by providing free breakfast and lunch for at-risk students, sometimes with funding through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program or the 2010 Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Changes in requirements for school-served foods made by the USDA, are challenging to the suppliers.
“The USDA handing down changes is one of the biggest challenges my company faces,” said Douglas Kurz of Kurz & Co., who supplies bread products for school districts.
“Beginning July 1, the USDA requires all bread products in the schools to be at least 51% whole grain, and Kurz has helped get us to that point as quickly as possible,” explained Shirley Parker, assistant director and dietitian at Humble ISD. “They knew about the change immediately and started talking to us about it, listening to our needs and helping us figure which products were our priorities.”
Rebecca Kenefic, dietetic supervisor of Child Nutrition Service at Spring Branch ISD, said making the transition to whole grain bread products was not difficult for Spring Branch ISD, which started ordering Kurz & Co.’s qualifying “white wheat” bread products four years ago.
“We have already been using Kurz’s whole grain products for several years,” she said. “We love their bread.”
Labeling itself the “Good Bread” Company, Kurz & Co. specializes in delivering fresh bread, buns, rolls, tortillas and other baked goods to large institutional customers, particularly schools. Choosing not to deliver to grocery stores and restaurants means its energies are more focused.
Douglas Kurz said that other companies that strive to serve schools under the USDA’s regulations often have to resort to frozen options, but Kurz & Co. is committed to producing and shipping fresh bread.
“We are the only company that can do it fresh,” Kurz boasted. “Our company is unique – we don’t serve any retail. We are the only company that meets the USDA recommendations to develop the product specifically for schools.”
BAKING UP A STORM
Kurz & Co.’s reputation for reliable delivery, quick communication and excellent customer service – even in spite of inclement weather – has helped the company expand in recent years.
“Since 2004 we have grown tremendously,” Kurz said, mentioning that he’s added 600 schools each year for the past two years to his delivery routes.
He has also found loyal customers through use of the Choice Partners cooperative contract. Kurz & Co. is HCDE’s only competitively awarded contract holder for bread products. They can deliver in the Houston, San Antonio and Dallas areas using the Choice Partners contract.
“We love Choice Partners!” said Spring Branch ISD’s Kenefic. “It’s really great having the freedom to go between the vendors we like. It’s a great co-op to be a part of.”
For more information, contact Doug Kurz at 713-861-9955, firstname.lastname@example.org. Choice Partners members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/kurz-and-company