NA serves tasty choices
Things are getting more and more delicious in North Allegheny, thanks to the friendly, student-focused meals served at the 12 school cafeterias across the district.
Gone are the days when school meals were a one-size-fits-all approach on a platter. Today’s students have more variety, with healthier and tastier choices, according to Judy Ostronic, cafeteria manager at Carson Middle School.
“We try to serve the best food, quality food. Think about what you would give to your children and grandchildren. We take it personally, ”said Ostronic, who has worked in the district for 13 years.
National School Lunch Week, which began Oct. 11, recognizes the positive impact of a healthy school lunch on a child, according to Jay West, director of food services at Metz Culinary.
The North Allegheny School District has had a contract with Metz, based in Dallas, Pennsylvania, since 1998. The family-owned restaurant and catering business follows US Department of Agriculture guidelines for school meals when selecting and selecting. preparation of meal choices. The USDA has approved free school meals for the 2021-2022 school year, according to West, who has worked for Metz for 10 years.
He knows that providing a good meal is “extremely important”. With kids running for sports or work after school, sometimes a sit-down, home-cooked meal just doesn’t fit into the schedule.
“We know that there are students out there and that it is their one and only well balanced meal of the day, especially since we want them to have a real culinary experience,” he said. he declares.
A well-balanced school lunch includes elements from five categories of nutritious foods: protein, grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. All foods are monitored for calorie, sodium, and sugar levels.
While elementary students pre-order their picks in the morning, middle and high school students order during lunch time. Diners can choose the main meal or from an à la carte selection.
College and high school cafeterias also offer fresh salads, pasta or taco bars. There are over 20 main ordering options for older levels, West said.
The district will make special accommodations where possible for students on special diets, such as gluten-free, vegans or vegetarians. Ostronic said the district takes food allergies very seriously, so students or parents should contact food service for any special meal needs.
Breakfast is served every morning during school. Sometimes students have a full breakfast or a quick fruit or milk, she said.
West said lunch is a time for students to relax and share a meal together.
Masks are not required during lunch, but students should be appropriately spaced due to pandemic protocols, according to Ostronic.
West said the food service team views students as valued customers. The dining rooms have a restaurant feel, with food services offering themed days and special promotions throughout the year, like Lucky Tray Day, he said.
And business is picking up. West said meals served by the district were up 33% from September 2019.
Ostronic said it’s a great place to work.
“We work as a team here,” Ostronic said. “The work is very rewarding.
She first came to the NA foodservice department because the position suited her family life at the time. Stay-at-home parents or grandparents can work from a few hours to a full eight-hour day, she said.
Shifts can start as early as 5:30 a.m. for breakfast. Positions include serving or preparing meals. And every employee is trained and certified in food safety, Ostronic said.
West said anyone interested can visit the NASD website to learn about job opportunities.
Diane Dougherty works and puts all her heart into the cafeteria at Bradford Woods Elementary.
“Being a lunch lady is more than just a job for me. It is a call and a humble labor of love. It makes me happy to see the smiling faces of children and adults with full bellies, ”she said.
Dougherty said it can be tough some days and it’s definitely hard work, but she finds the adrenaline rush invigorating.
“At the end of the day, when the aprons and spatulas are put away, I get a sense of pride and satisfaction in having made a positive difference in someone’s life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Natalie Beneviat is an associate of Trib Total Media.