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Missi Nu r t


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hen Josh Sumrall became superintendent of Coyle Public Schools a couple of years ago, he knew he needed to make some changes. He decided to survey the parents and students of the small, rural


district near Guthrie and ask them what areas needed the most improve- ment. The results indicated Sumrall had some work to do in Coyle’s caf- eteria.


“We didn’t have a lot of kids wanting to eat at school,” he said. “It was a hot meal, but there was a lot of processed food that we got from the state. It was our only option with the budget we had.” Sadly, many school cafeterias carry a certain stigma because of their mystery


entrees and cheaper meal options, but in Coyle’s case, food wasn’t the only concern. In the fall of 2011, several members of the cafeteria staff resigned and the district was left with little help to feed its 330 hungry students. Considered a high-poverty school where 85-88 percent of the students are enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program, Coyle Schools wasn’t prepared to offer the healthy and nutritious meals so many of its students rarely enjoy. “With our high poverty rate, breakfast and lunch could be the only meals these kids eat,” Sumrall said. “When kids are hungry, the last thing on their minds is paying attention in class and concentrating on their school work.” After evaluating Coyle’s cafeteria situation, the superintendent researched his


options and called on a food service company with little “lunch lady” experi- ence; in business since 1993, Keystone Food Service is a food-management com- pany that specializes in serving fraternities and sororities at both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.


f i N


How a small Oklahoma school is serving up home-cooked meals with a smile


By Gail Banzet


“On the day we visited Coyle, the kids were eating bologna with a slice of pickle on a hot dog bun and a bag of Cheetos,” said Keystone Food Service Owner/Manager Josh Sanders who is a member of Central Rural Electric Co- operative. “These kids were looking up with big eyes and we just felt terrible that they were getting this horrible food.”


In order to work with Keystone, Coyle began the long and diffi cult process of following federal procurement regulations to secure a bid. Once an agreement was fi nalized, the trial run began. In October of last year, Keystone’s staff took over all breakfast and lunch duties and began introducing tasty and nutritious dishes, all made from scratch. “There are no pre-done meals because our goal is to use fresh products,” Sanders said. “We cook meals from scratch in the most inexpensive ways, from homemade pot roast to chicken and noodles and chicken pot pie.” As an experienced food service company with years of ownership in the indus- try, Sanders said Keystone’s staff is enjoying the project and the opportunity to experiment with new ideas for a younger crowd.


“It’s a time the kids look forward to now, instead of dreading lunch,” he said. “For example, when I grew up in the cafeteria, the hamburgers left a lot to be desired, so we take the propane cooker down some Fridays and charcoal burgers for the kids. There’s a lot of new, fun ideas that the kids really like.” According to Sanders, the Coyle project presents a big learning curve for Keystone because of U.S. Deparmtnet of Agriculture guidelines school lunch programs must follow. The nutrition facts are more diffi cult to track in home- cooked meals but Keystone is adapting to the federal requirements.


Continued on Page 18 FEBRUARY 2012 17 MARCH 2012 17


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