With an enthusiasm for sharing her love of nutritious and tasty food, Cynthia Dahlinger-Koby moved from her previous role as school cafeteria cook, to her current role as Director of Food Services for the Orcas Island School District. Finding menus that appeal to student tastes and yet incorporate healthful ingredients is an ongoing interest for her.
Providing anywhere from 180-235 lunches daily and approximately 75 breakfast/class break meals for K-12 students and staff requires a lot of planning and combined resources. Three other people are employed to help Dahlinger-Koby with this task: Cindy Ballanger started this year as the cook. She begins work at 7 a.m. preparing enough food for breakfast for K-12 classes, middle and high school morning breaks, and lunch for everyone. Debbie Guilford prepares the salad bar and takes care of the register for breaks and lunch. Patrica Tullock comes in early and helps with some preparation and then is the lunchroom monitor. Everyone (including Dahlinger-Koby) pitches in on the dishes.
The school is mandated to provide free and reduced cost breakfast and lunches to students whose family income meets the federal qualification guidelines. These meals have certain nutritional criteria and, working within the yearly budget, the cafeteria offers a variety of foods that will meet the regulations. Students who are not on the free and reduced program can purchase either full meals or individual items. These are also available for the staff and school visitors.
Menu ingredients come primarily from government commodities which are often free or available for a small fee to the school from Food Service of America, and when possible, from local farms. The local Farm-to-Cafeteria program has been in existence for a few years and is primarily used to provide greens and vegetables for the salad bar beginning each fall season. Dahlinger-Koby plans to continue this affiliation and is grateful to advocate Maddy Murray and the OIEF for providing the funding and continued support for this program.
Some favorite lunches are pizza, spaghetti, quesadillas and sandwiches. Vegetarian options are available and all lunches include milk, fruit, vegetables and the salad bar. Wraps are also available. Periodically something brand new will be added to the menu but developing new tastes doesn’t always happen easily. The lunch cost for K-Sixth grade is $2.25, for Middle School and above is $3.00. A full qualifying breakfast is $1.25. Breakfast is primarily served between 8 and 8:30 a.m. although a few children do come in earlier.
Dahlinger-Koby learned her new tasks at the beginning of the school year from retiring director Betty Marcum. At the same time, Dahlinger-Koby was training new cook Cindy Ballanger. It has been a year of intense learning, ranging from the budgeting tasks, food ordering, menu planning, watching student food preferences and patterns, as well as picking the best nutritional options with what resources have been made available. As this school year is winding down, Dahlinger-Koby is looking forward to the new possibilities for next year now that she has the basics under her belt.