Schools as Nutrition Hubs: Case Study 3

In “Schools as Nutrition Hubs,” found in School Nutrition’s March 2017 issue, Arianne Corbett, RD weighs the benefits (mostly) and challenges (far less) of expanding food service programs to include items like Breakfast in the Classroom, Afterschool Meals and more. In Maryland’s Montgomery County Schools, one director of nutrition services is taking advantage of every available opportunity.

“There's nothing as powerful as seeing a child who is hungry get a meal, be it afterschool, breakfast, lunch, or summer. There's nothing more pleasurable than seeing that happen,” says Marla Caplon director of nutrition services for Montgomery County in Maryland. Caplon has been working with the district for 28 years and in that time has seen her programs grow considerably. With 157,000 students in over 200 schools, Montgomery County was an early adopter of Breakfast in the Classroom and a pilot school for the early versions of the Afterschool Meal program. The district also serves over 400,000 meals each summer. She explains, “For all our schools, I am committed to making sure we participate and that we provide every service and resource each school is eligible for.” She adds, “There's no limit to the number of children we can feed, so our goal is to find locations, to find areas and to find eligible children outside of breakfast and lunch.”

Expansion of the federal meal programs helped to keep the nutrition program financially strong, even as a la carte revenue has decreased. “Those dollars have been declining for many years, so the focus has been on expanding breakfast, the afterschool supper, snack programs and summer programs which are incredible revenue-generators,” explains Caplon. The volume of meals that we serve certainly generates sufficient reimbursement …and certainly allows us to be in a good financial situation.”

Montgomery County is committed to serving as a nutrition hub from the top down. “I believe in honestly and developing relationships,” Caplon says. “I don’t think there is a principal in this county that wouldn’t trust and believe me. I want to support them in any way I can.” By adding meal programs and increasing participation, the budget is staying healthy allowing Caplon to invest back into her program and back into her students. “As a Nutrition Hub, we're working 12 months a year serving students breakfast, lunch, dinner,” to ensure no child in Montgomery county goes hungry.

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