Bountiful Kitchen is Yavapai Food Council’s (YFCs) new, innovative solution to child hunger. Because we are committed to doing our part in preventing childhood hunger, the leadership at YFC could not turn a blind eye to the fact that 24 out of 80 rural and/or charter schools in Yavapai County do not have commercial kitchens and are not providing breakfast, lunch or snacks for students. The free and reduced student qualification rate averages well over 50%, with multiple schools ranking between 90% and 98% of the students qualifying.
This information prompted Amy Aossey, Executive Director, to complete all of the AZ Department of Education School (ADE) nutrition certification programs to position Yavapai Food Council as a support system in helping schools without commercial kitchens receive brown bag meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
The pilot brown bag school meals program ran from October 2014 to May of 2015 at a rural school with 184 students, of which 74% (approx. 136 students) qualified for free or reduced meals. YFC assisted with the application process, administrative oversight, and compliance for NSLP and ADE, while a contracted, for-profit food service management from a local school district prepared meals and accepted responsibility for menus, nutritional analysis, food quality and USDA meal plan requirements. The program was well received by students, staff and parents from the start.
As the pilot continued into the second half of the school year students began dropping out of the meal program and there was less satisfaction with the meals. A survey implemented for parents, teachers, and students to better understand the cause for attrition. We learned that the students were 1) unhappy with the quality of the food, 2) they wanted more variety, and 3) was not being paired with the appropriate condiments. Because YFC was not the food service provider, we ultimately had little influence over improving the food to the student’s preferences, while staying with in the NSLP guidelines.
In the spring of 2015 the YFC Board of Directors approved developing a nonprofit prep kitchen to prep the brown bag school meals. The Bountiful Kitchen allows YFC to have complete control of the food quality, nutritional analysis, menu development and student satisfaction ensuring student participation is healthy. The nonprofit focus ensures that a minimum of 85% of the federal reimbursement funds go directly into the food cost so better quality, nutritious foods and more homemade options are available.
YFC is proud to be partnering with Northern Arizona University and other accredited colleges offering degrees in hotel and restaurant management. With three internship sessions annually, the Bountiful Kitchen offers students an opportunity to learn about the National School Lunch Program and experience how they can make a difference in the nonprofit sector.
WHAT’S NEW IN THE KITCHEN?
Our dedication to feeding hungry kids involves many in the community including volunteers, local business, and interns. If you are interested in participating in the Brown Bag School Meals Program, please let us know. Contact us
Verde Valley School Hunger Garden – local produce serving Bountiful Kitchen farm to school program.
(link to VVS program)