KUSD food services supervisor juggles food groups and calories

KINGMAN ­ Karma Jones is continually thinking in terms of meats and meat alternatives, grains and breads, fruits and vegetables, and fluid milk, a copy of "Traditional Meal Patterns" from the United States Department of Agriculture at her fingertips.

It could boggle the minds of many people. But it is what Jones has done for the past 14 years as supervisor of food services for the Kingman Unified School District and Kingman Elementary School District prior to unification four years ago.

She plans meals for KUSD children and oversees a staff of 67 permanent employees in the district's food service division. Those employees work 2.5 to 8 hours per day Monday through Friday during the school year to ensure 900-1,200 breakfasts and about 3,500 lunches each day are delivered to district schools.

"Each breakfast we serve must meet one-fourth of the USDA's recommended daily allowance (for vitamin A and C, protein, calcium and iron content) and each lunch must meet one-third of the RDA," Jones said.

"Thirty percent or less of calories in the meals must come from fat."

Calorie content of meals is looked at over a week's time, instead of daily, Jones said. But by hitting the various food group requirements you normally hit the allowable calorie figures.

Each breakfast must contain two grain and bread group choices or one grain and bread with one protein that may include biscuits, rolls, cereal, and cooked rice, macaroni, noodles or other pasta products, plus eight ounces of milk.

See FOOD, Page 2A

Lunches are planned with five foods from among four food groups to meet the larger RDA requirement. They include all of the TMP items already mentioned.

A typical lunch may have one or more of the following meat or meat alternatives: three ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish; three ounces of cheese; 1.5 large eggs; 3/4 cup cooked dry beans or peas; six tablespoons of peanut butter or acceptable substitute and 12 ounces of yogurt.

Add three-fourths cup of fruits or vegetables from two sources, 1-2 slices of enriched or whole grain bread, and eight ounces of milk and you have a complete lunch.

"We plan a number of student favorites," Jones said. "They're our customers and we try to cater to their likes, as long as they fit within the framework of meal patterns."

Students at Kingman Junior High and the north and south campuses of Kingman High School are offered a daily salad bar in addition to prepared meals. "Combo meals" that may feature a cheeseburger, chicken sandwich or chicken strips, two side dishes, and milk now are served at KHS North.

That enabled the north campus to get away from vendors bringing in food items and was implemented at the start of this school year on the recommendation of former KUSD Superintendent Mike Ford, Jones said.

Hualapai Elementary School is where the district's central kitchen is located. Meals go out from there twice each school day via "hot transport carts" that maintain temperatures for up to five hours. Each school is capable of re-heating any meals that have cooled down before delivery, but that does not happen often, Jones said.

KJHS does some on-site meal preparation. Palo Christi, Manzanita and La Senita schools fix their own vegetables, but receive entrée items from Hualapai.

Black Mountain and Cerbat schools have kitchens, permitting food service personnel at those schools to do much of their own meal preparation.

Mt. Tipton School in Dolan Springs has total on-site meal preparation, Jones said.

Jones said her average monthly budget is $47,200 with $12,000-$14,000 of that allocated for milk.

She is under no pressure to reduce costs, since the food service operation is self-sufficient. But she still saves money by putting foods out to bid.

"We do such a high volume that bidding allows us to get the best price," she said. "Getting items wholesale enables me to buy in pallet quantities, which saves a lot.

"However, I won't cut quality to save money. There are some items we actually pay a little more for because they're better quality."

Hebrew National frankfurters are one such item. The district pays about three cents more for each frankfurter than it would buying a lesser brand, Jones said.

Students who do not like what may be served on a given day are free to bring their own lunch to school. Jones was asked if she has any idea what percent do.

"It varies by the menu day," she said.

"Kids put the menus up at home and mark off which days they want to eat what we're serving. On the other days, they bring their own lunch."