The Lunch Bunch: CSD’s Cafeteria Workers Go Great Lengths to Fuel Learning With Healthy, Mouth-Watering Food Choices

For some students, knowing what’s on the lunch menu might not be the most important part of the day. But for Canyons District’s Nutrition Services Department, it’s everything.

From taste tests to strict health requirements, locally sourcing ingredients and analyzing what’s a popular meal and what’s not, Canyons goes to great lengths to make sure students have healthy, delicious food choices every day at school.

This is the second year that all children have received school lunches and breakfasts at no cost, regardless of their family income, thanks to a waiver provided by the USDA — a massive operational challenge that CSD’s cafeteria workers have pulled off, despite pandemic-related safety challenges and supply-chain and labor shortages. Unfilled this year are 65 kitchen and cashier positions, reports Canyons Nutrition Services Director Sebasthian Varas. In addition, the supply chain of food items, paper products, and cleaning supplies has slowed considerably.

But Canyons District’s lunch crews still manage to serve up smiles, and healthy schools, every day. In honor of #NationalSchoolWeek, we invite you to tune into this mouth-watering episode of Connect Canyons where we take you behind the scenes of Canyons’ Nutrition Services Department.

Canyons District is Undergoing Accreditation. What Does this Mean, and Why Does it Matter?

When you enroll in a college or university, you expect that your tuition dollars are being put to good use, and one important measure of quality is whether the institution is accredited. Accreditation is an assurance that the school you’ve chosen meets certain standards — and it applies, not only to colleges, but to high schools.

Each of Canyons District’s high schools are fully accredited, which means that employers and colleges will accept with confidence the diplomas they award. But accreditations have to be renewed periodically — and Canyons has decided to take its accreditation a step further by seeking districtwide certification through the Utah State Board of Education-endorsed agency Cognia.

Why go districtwide and what does that entail? It’s a heavy lift. Canyons will be the third school district in Utah to take the systemwide approach, said Jesse Hennefer, Associate Director of CSD’s Instructional Supports Department. But it makes sense to view K-12 systems holistically when you consider high school is the culmination of, not just four years, but 12 to 13 years of schooling. “Where schools have school improvement plans, this is our system improvement plan,”  Hennefer said.

Listen to Connect Canyons: Episode 23

The entire process began in 2019 with data-gathering and surveying of employees and parents.  The next phase will involve a virtual visit by a review team of educators from across the country. They’ll spend a few days learning about Canyons District, reviewing data, and interviewing parents, students, teachers, and administrators — the end goal being to deliver a notice of accreditation.

The final report that’s produced, along with supporting documents, will be available for public review and published on the District’s website, said CSD Student Support Services Director Cindy Hanson. “This is an objective measure of our growth and progress. It’s really about keeping ourselves accountable to the goals we’ve established for ourselves.”

More Connect Canyons Episodes 

Students love their ‘awesome’ Canyons District principals — and for good reason

It’s been said that the influence of a great principal can never be erased.

 But don’t just take our word for it. To kick off National Principals Month, we asked students around the District to share what principals mean to them and their schools. Answers ranged from cute to sincere.

 Jason Mun, a student body officer at Hillcrest High, described principals as being organizers and intermediaries between teachers and students. “My favorite thing about our principal is that he’s hilarious,” Mun said. “Mr. (Greg) Leavitt is awesome, and he’s constantly thinking of us.”

 Bonus: Mr. Leavitt occasionally buys pizza for students at football games, and has been known to make three-plus-hour drives to watch sporting events.

 A young student at Bell View Elementary shared two reasons why she likes Tamra Baker and other principals. “I would say because they keep children safe, and they help people.” Victoria, a fifth-grader, respects principals for being leaders, helpful and friendly.

 “Miss Baker’s always really nice,” Victoria said. “She’s always trying to do something new at our school.”

 Sunrise’s lead administrator, Dr. Angela Wilkinson, received high marks for being “very nice” and for allowing students to buy fun stuff through a points system. In addition, one student noted, “She helps us out when we’re sad.”

 Brighton High student Johnny McFarland credited all of CSD’s principals for caring a lot about different groups of people: students, staff, teachers, and community members.

 “They have to pay attention to so many different factors,” he said. “Principals do it all.”

 That, McFarland added, includes being aware of everything that goes on, making sure everyone is cared for and happy, listening, and working hard. Those are among reasons why Brighton Principal Tom Sherwood earned a 2021 Canyons Apex Award for being the School Administrator of the Year, and why Alta High Principal Brian McGill was named Utah’s High School Principal of the Year.

 “I think principals are really great for schools and the community,” McFarland said. “We really appreciate them.”

 Other words students used to describe CSD principals: aware, caring, super strong, resilient, awesome, supportive, engaging, and helpful. The list could go on, too.

 “If I could say anything to my principal, it would just be, ‘Thank you,’” Hillcrest student Luke Bangerter said. “He’s such a loving guy. He’s always looking out for us, and he makes it feel like Hillcrest is a big, giant family. … (Principals) help the teachers teach and help the students get to where they need to be — in class and getting your (work) done. They’re amazing.”

 

 

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