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Savannah BoxWith a pledge to put in place a menu appealing to children, and with a focus on meals made from scratch by the District 60 team already in place, the nationally renowned Southwest Foodservice Excellence (SFE) is now overseeing D60 Foodworks.

The transition was a seamless one, with the operation continuing on a “business as usual” scale with no disruption to the mobile meals being distributed twice-weekly.

As the manager of D60 Foodworks, a SFE team will oversee and guide the operation, which will continue to be staffed by the personnel currently in place in what is being termed a “partnership.”

Serving as General Manager of Food Service is Savannah Box, who comes to Pueblo from Texas with nearly 7 years of experience with SFE.

“I started in food service 11 years ago, in a small town in Texas,” Ms. Box said. “When my boys started school, I wasn’t happy with the food being served, and I was at the Child Nutrition Office almost daily. Finally, the director asked me to become part of the team to help make a change, rather than complaining.”

Ms. Box said the D60 Foodworks staff has been very welcoming, “with strong pride in the food they put out and pride in their kitchens, which are some of the cleanest I’ve seen, even though most kitchens are older.

“Overall, I’ve had a wonderful impression.”

As General Manager of Food Service, it is Ms. Box’s responsibility to ensure the professional and efficient delivery of meals to the children of the District, with oversight of menu development and the handling of all necessary paperwork related to a large-scale school meal operation.

There will be a priority, Ms. Box said, on “freshly made, from-scratch foods: students will see more fresh food than pre-packaged. We are working closely with the kitchen teams to train on new recipes and menus with more fresh and wholesome ingredients. Over the next several weeks, as schools open and begin regular service, students will see these fresh, made from scratch recipes come to life. We really try to stay away from as much frozen food as possible. 

“For example, this year SFE actually developed a from-scratch hamburger recipe using commodity beef, so it’s a free product for the District, and students receive a fresh, not frozen burger in their cafe. I’d like to bring a lot of that fresh experience to Pueblo, because we’re really about trying to expand taste buds and understanding what our students enjoy.”

Menus, Ms. Box said, will be changed on a monthly basis, “to fit our students’ needs. It won’t necessarily be a blanket menu for all schools but rather, menus developed for each school, so we can bring a menu to every school, every day that students can get excited about.” Glenn Töpfer

Glenn Topfer, who comes to the District with a 34-year culinary background, most recently in the large Houston Independent School District, will serve as Assistant General Manager of Operations.

“I am thrilled to join the Pueblo team to bring a food-first approach to school nutrition to each school café in the District,” Mr. Topfer said. “I am passionate about great food and will be working alongside our team and Savannah to bring to life a great menu for D60 students.”

Mr. Topfer and SFE believe a great tasting, exciting menu drives student participation. If we feed the students food items they are familiar with, through a menu that’s attractive to them, participation will increase.

“The key is to have a student-friendly and enticing menu. If the kids like the food, they are going to eat it. It’s all about getting every student to eat: because a kid can’t study and learn on an empty stomach.”

Another of Ms. Box’s personal goals is to “grow and develop each of our staff members, whatever their passion may be. If an employee wants to be a manager, it’s my goal to train them up to be that manager. If we have a manager that wants to come up into the administration building, it’s my goal to develop them to do so.

“I’m all about training and development, and harnessing the skills of the people we already have.”

During the week of August 8, SFE will oversee an all-staff week-long training “so we can get them on board with new processes,” Ms. Box said. “It will be broken up into groups so everyone gets more one-on-one, hands-on training, so they can really absorb the information.”

Although she’s only been in Pueblo less than a week, Ms. Box visited the District’s mobile meal distribution sites with the Centennial High School team. At each site, she visited with the crew members and got a glimpse of the operation.

“During the week-long training, I will meet with everyone one-on-one and let them know there SFE is proud to be a part of the Pueblo community, and we are here to make sure they are well prepared and excited about welcoming students back to school. We are truly here as a partner to the district and community,” Ms. Box said. “We’re all about the team approach and community. And one of my own goals is to reach out to local vendors to see if we can do some farmers market showcases and local taste tests.

“We also like to volunteer in the community, so I’ll be looking to see where we can fit child nutrition into the community.”

As presented to the D60 Board of Education, SFE has pledged to re-commit $1 million back to the District. This, Ms. Box said, could include barbecue stations at each high school and an expansion of the breakfast program, “with remote points of service, like kiosks, to reach kids where they are in all of the schools. We’d like to see breakfast participation pick up, because it seems a little low.

Angel Bragg

“The more students who eat, the better.”

Additionally, there will be a marketing push, “to really show the D60 brand and what we’re about and what we can do.”

Angel Bragg, who has served D60 Foodworks as a cook/baker in the Centennial kitchen for 7 years, said it’s been “smooth sailing” since SFE took over the managerial reins.

“I’m looking forward to the new company coming in, because I believe they will bring new ideas, like a new menu change for the students,” Mrs. Bragg said. “New ingredients, new items. I prefer to look at the positive side. Change can be positive, and that’s the way I look at it. And from what I’ve seen, it’s been all positive.

“Our kids depend on us and the food, and when they come in, they want good stuff. And we want them to have a good quality of food. We want more kids than ever eating. I’m a Pueblo native, and I want what’s best for our kids.”