By Jack H. Smith
Whitehall Ledger 

District receives Cook Fresh Award


There was more great news last week for Whitehall Schools with the notification they were one of four districts statewide to receive the Office of Public Instruction's Cook Fresh Award.

Superintendent Hannah Nieskens said Thursday Whitehall School District's food service program staff, under the leadership of Kathy Coughlin, received OPI's Cook Fresh Award for their excellence and dedication to serving nutritious school meals, cooking from scratch, and motivation to exceed requirements.

According to OPI Director of School Nutrition Programs Christine Emerson, the award was created by joint efforts of the Office of Public Instruction, Montana Team Nutrition, and Montana No Kid Hungry to recognize excellence in School Nutrition Programs and the efforts of food service professionals.

Emerson added the Foodservice professionals and their programs are "scored" based on documentation and observation during their Administrative Review. Areas scored included scratch cooking, menu variety, safety practices, comfortable cafeterias, motivation to meet/exceed requirements, and more.

Nieskens said the award was a surprise because it is based upon their performance during OPI inspection in relation to other schools.

"The Office of Public Instruction School Nutrition review team came onsite earlier this year to conduct a thorough Administrative Review of our food service, and Kathy (Coughlin) and her team received this award as a result of how high they scored in that review, an amazing 95/100 compared to the state average of 81/100. Kathy and her dedicated staff did an exceptional job this year of providing quality meals to our students and rose to the occasion to produce thousands of sack meals through our school closure at the end of the year. They are a dedicated, hard-working team, and definitely worthy of recognition," she said.

Emerson praised the leadership of Coughlin in achieving the award and informed the district they will be receiving a set of five knives soon to commemorate the achievement.

"From all the School Nutrition Programs staff – thank you for your continued support of your food program. It is truly wonderful to see programs like yours," Emerson said in a letter to the district.

The awards are normally presented at the Montana School Nutrition Association Conference in June but will be presented virtually in 2020.

Pictured are Whitehall School Food Service Staff members earlier this summer. Ledger photo


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