On January 30, 2018 at 10:30 a.m., Kate Gaspar, Amanda Bartley, and Taya Montgomery drove to 16430 SE May Valley Rd, Renton, WA, to meet with the Food Services Director for Issaquah Schools, Brian Olson and Food Services Supervisor, Nancy Beltz. They discussed ways to promote positive changes of the culture around school food and attract families who normally do not participate in school lunch program by providing nutritious, scratch made meals and a la carte items one time per week. For example, “Scratch Cook Wednesdays.”


Olson said that he receives “entitlement dollars” (donated food) for reimbursable meals that comply with the nutrition program based upon the number of meals sold during the previous year. The USDA provides a finished product and Olson pays a fee for processing, transport and storage of the foods used for school meals.  These deliveries occur once a month.  In addition to the finished USDA products Olson is able to divert raw product from the USDA to approved processors for additional products.  The procurement bids for these products are coordinated by the Puget Sound Joint Purchasing Co-op, which Issaquah SD is a member of.  These finished products are available on demand from the main distributor. Olson’s main distributor is Food Services of America. FSA provides the district discounted prices for the value of the donated food item in the cases of these commercial products. There is a separate dairy, pizza and beverage bid that the ISD coordinates for the procurement of a la carte pizza and beverages in the secondary schools and milk and various other dairy products for all schools. Olson also receives government “entitlements” from the Department of Defense to purchase produce. Food services personnel attend an annual seminar put on by the Washington School Nutrition Association for product tastings and selections.


Issaquah Food Services are self-operated. The district is currently operating free of deficit or surplus and is allowed to operate on three months credit. The district does not currently have a dietician or nutritionist on staff.


When asked about whether or not to apply for grants, Olson pointed out that grants are generally awarded to districts with much higher free and reduced lunch rates (ISD rates are currently at ~ 9% District Wide). He estimated the overall lunch participation rate to be at around 37%. He is currently working with ISF on a pilot breakfast program but explained that because the breakfast pilot is not part of the National School Food Program, they are not beholden to the same guidelines. He was not sure whether or not ISF funds could be used for the school lunch pilot at our school.


Olson has to purchase a specified amount of volume per week from FSA and he drafts district menus one year in advance, and therefore, he felt, would need to pair the scratch cooked item with two to three additional preordered items such as chicken nuggets. Olson has the freedom to choose from a number of varied food items, but he has to order those items in high volumes. Because of this, he said that it could be difficult to procure certain ingredients for proposed recipes.


Olson is not opposed to the pilot program, but said that procurement, legalities, cost, cleanliness, contamination, labor, and compliance with the nutrition program (in order to qualify for reimbursement), would all need consideration.  He asked what we would be willing to pay for a scratch cooked school meal and commented that lunch prices would most likely need to be raised. He told us that the current menu item, pizza, is made on site, from scratch.


Olson said he would need to speak to his supervisor and ask for more money if he were going to consider the pilot. For our next step, he would like for us to poll parent interest and find out what kind of recipes people want added to the menu.