D211 Post: District 211 Summer Food Service Program returns

            As summer and summer school begin for students in the area, Palatine High School (1111 N. Rohlwing Rd.) and Schaumburg High School (1100 W. Schaumburg Rd.) will be participating in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program that offers free breakfast and lunch to all children under the age of 18.  This marks the 4th year High School District 211 will participate in a USDA summer meal program, offering a free breakfast and lunch to not only students participating in summer programs, but any child under the age of 18 within the community.

            The Summer Food Service Program will operate at both schools from June 4 through July 18, with hours posted on each of the school websites.  Additionally, District 211 Food Services will be serving lunch at the Hoffman Estates Branch Library (1550 Hassel Rd. in Hoffman Estates) Wednesdays and Thursdays from June 12 through July 18, with the exception of July 4.  Hoffman Estates High School will not be serving meals this summer due to the building being closed for renovations.

            “Our summer feeding programs allow us an additional opportunity to provide our students, and children in the community, access to nutritious meals,” said Stacy Lenihan, District 211 Director of Food Service.  “And, this summer, we’re very excited about offering meals at a new location in Hoffman Estates to make things more convenient for children in our community.”

            Although the Summer Food Service Program is not available at William Fremd and James B. Conant High Schools, students will have the opportunity to receive a free breakfast before the start of school and will have access to lunch options at regular rates.

            Last summer, more than 50,000 summer meals were served in District 211.  In addition to breakfast and lunch options, à la carte options and items in vending machines will be available for purchase.  For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, please visit https://adc.d211.org/page/7125.  Questions should be directed to the District 211 Food Service Department at 847-755-6680, or email foodservice@d211.org.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


District 211 Participation in Free and Reduced Lunch Program Ensures All Students Receive Healthy Food Options

cafeteriaHigh School District 211 has a diverse student population, and because of this, each school strives to ensure the needs of individual students are met. This is one reason District 211 participates in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.

The program allows the District to provide qualifying students meals at a free or reduced rate based on household income. It’s beneficial for District 211 to participate in the program because it allows every student access to a meal that is nutritionally balanced and meets strict federal requirements.

“The program offers every student a meal choice at an affordable rate, and offers a growing number of students qualifying for free or reduced rate meals access to meals that they may not otherwise receive,” said Lauren Hummel, director of Food Service in District 211. “Additionally, operating this program is cost neutral for District 211.”

The program is governed through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the majority of applications are based on two criteria: the total household gross income and the number of people who live in the household. Each July, the USDA releases income criteria for the free and reduced lunch program, and it is based on the United States poverty level.

For the upcoming school year, a family of four would have to make less than $43,568 gross annual income to qualify for reduced meals; which is 185 percent of the Federal poverty level.  Free meal benefits are also available and income guidelines must fall below 130 percent of the poverty level, or be less than $30,615 annually for a family of four.

After the qualifying criteria are released, a mass mailing is sent to everyone in the District towards the end of July. Families complete the application, and if they meet the federal income guidelines, they are approved with income verification occurring throughout the year. There are some other special circumstances that qualify a student for free or reduced lunch, for example, if the student is considered homeless or if the family is already receiving “SNAP” benefits through the government. A qualifying student’s eligibility is kept confidential and is not identifiable at school.

“The District takes great measures to ensure that student confidentiality is protected for those receiving free or reduced rate meals,” Hummel said. “Our students use ID cards to access either meal benefits and/or their prepayment accounts. Because students use their ID cards to access both of these benefits, there is no identification of their eligibility in the serving lines.”

Over the past 10 years, District 211 has seen a rise in the number of students who qualify for the program. In 2003, the District had roughly eight percent of its student population receiving free or reduced lunch. The current qualifying student population is more than 30 percent. The increase in enrollment in the program isn’t unique to District 211 schools, but schools all over the region.

While schools participating in the National School Lunch Program receive government donated foods, District 211 has the ability to request only products that meet their high quality standards.  The District chooses to maximize their government funded support by choosing items such as fresh produce (often produced locally), frozen berries, and whole grain items which allow greater variety in the menus.

“Quality is of great importance to us.  We use many name brand products in school meals that you would find on the shelves in the grocery store,” Hummel said. “Meals also feature homemade breads and soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, and freshly prepared salads among other things. It is important for us to offer the same quality of food to all our students.”

Additionally, District 211 undergoes nutritional audits conducted by the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure that their meals meet strict nutritional criteria and offer students the proper nutrients.

“One of the most common questions that I hear is regarding pizza being served as a vegetable in school lunches. District 211 does not consider pizza or anything of the like as a vegetable.  We feel that it is important for a student to have access to fruits and vegetables that they can see, and also choose.  This is our time to educate students outside of the classroom.”

More information about the free and reduced lunch program can be found on the District website. Application information for the upcoming school year will be mailed to District 211 students toward the end of July.



District 211 Meals Meet, Exceed Nutrition Guidelines

Preparing school lunches requires a lot of planning and making sure government nutritional standards are met, and High School District 211 has proven that it provides quality meals to its students.

The District received results from The School Meals Initiative Review, which is a nutrition audit of the lunches served within the District done in collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education and Southern Illinois University. District 211 met and exceeded expectations for high school lunches.

Nutrition Guidelines Chart

Click to enlarge nutrition chart.

The review looks at every nutritional aspect of school meals and what is being served, including even the ketchup and mustard packets that are handed out. A week of menus is selected for review, and the District provides recipes, labels from food, and production records from what was prepared and served, to be analyzed. Lauren Hummel, director of food services, said District 211 met or exceeded all areas, except that the meals analyzed fell just short of the weekly goal for calories.

“The goal for our meals is that we are at 825 calories, less than 30 percent calories from fat, 10 percent or less of saturated fat, and meet guidelines for Vitamins A, C, calcium and iron,” Hummel said. “We met or exceeded standards on everything, except we fell 60 calories short of our goal over the week-long period.  With reduced calorie ranges established by the USDA for next school year and planned increases for portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, we anticipate that the calorie targets will be met.”

The guidelines were created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). According to the USDA’s calories and nutrient guidelines for enhanced menu planning approaches in the National School Lunch Program, school meals should have 825 calories per week, with less than 30 percent fat and 10 percent saturated fat calories. (See chart for additional guidelines)

Although the District is not ranked against other schools, Hummel said District 211 is doing quite well. One thing that surprised the reviewers was the amount of milk consumed at each school. Hummel said it’s roughly 95 percent of students buying a complete lunch at each of the five District high schools.

“One of the things the reviewer commented on was the amount of milk that our students consume,” said Mary O’Connor, assistant director of food service. “They were surprised that our consumption of milk is as high as it is because we have a lot of high school students that drink milk as a part of the meal each day.”

Preparing the menu is looked at day by day, so it ensures all guidelines are met for that week. Part of what makes planning for adequate nutrient consumption difficult is that high schools operate on an “offer versus serve” system, which means students have the ability to decline portions of the meal. This is why creating healthier meals and offering the right combination of foods is so important. Some recipes come from the USDA, but most are from “scratch cooking,” where recipes are created at the schools based on guidelines, taste, and esthetics. Hummel said the District tries different combinations of recipes to make sure they meet guidelines and are appealing to students.

“Creating recipes is a lot of trial and error until we get to where we want to be,” Hummel said. “It can be challenging because, for example, we’re coming up with a vegetarian pasta salad for next year that will count for the protein and grains requirements. It can be made to taste good, but if it doesn’t have enough nutrients to meet guidelines, then we can’t serve it. We experiment with recipes to make sure they meet the components and are student approved.”

For more information about the food audit, contact Lauren Hummel at (847) 755-6680.