Q & A with AAPS Nutrition Director Sarah Mason

“I look forward to working closely with students, staff, and parents to improve the program taking into account everyone’s voices and perspectives,” says Mason

AAPS Nutrition Director Sarah Mason

What do you most want parents to know about food service at AAPS?
I think the biggest thing I want parents to know is that we are a program that believes in student choice. We provide a wide variety of options for your students but it’s ultimately up to them to make healthy choices that will keep them full throughout the day. We provide almost exclusively whole grain and reduced sugar options but there are still certainly combinations of offerings that are healthier than others. We continue to support the student autonomy to make their own choices with their meals.

Why are you meeting with AAPS Student Councils?
I am a huge believer that students deserve a voice in what meals they are served at school and as I am new in this role and taking over menu development, I want to make sure I hear those perspectives. I have set up meetings with Student Councils across the district to have open discussions on the menu- focusing on questions such as what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see. I specifically chose Student Councils because they are most often a cross-sectional representation of students, with students from all grades! I do send the questions
ahead of time and encourage the representatives to poll their classes to have a wider range of opinions represented.

What are the students telling you at these meetings?
I’ve gotten a wide variety of feedback from students across all grade levels. Some of the most common themes I’ve been hearing are:

  • More vegetarian options
  • More variety in produce offerings.
  • Increased variety in Taco Tuesday and Pizza Fridays.

We also had discussions about specific menu items they wanted to get rid of or they wanted to see added to the rotation and have found some clear patterns. So many of the students have had fantastic ideas that I am incredibly excited to implement.

Are you able to meet their requests?
I always tell the students I can’t make any promises but I am doing my best to make menu adjustments based on patterns I am hearing across the district. When the next month’s menu is released, I send a copy to the student council along with a personalized letter highlighting exactly where on the menu their ideas were implemented. I feel strongly that it is important to make sure the students know that their voices are heard and really do matter in this process.

Do you meet with students from all schools?
I was able to meet with eight schools in March, all of whom had a strong role in influencing the April menu. I have scheduled another 10 meetings so far in April, and those students will have a voice in changes coming to the May menu and I hope to meet with representatives from every school by the end of the year so I can factor them in when I weigh making bigger changes over the summer.

How do students’ requests vary among age groups?
I was actually surprised with how consistent a lot of the overall messaging was across all age groups! When it came to specific menu items, there was much more variety which is to be expected because the existing offerings are very different at each age group.

Are students concerned about nutritional value?
I do think students are concerned about nutritional value and one of the very consistent topics of
conversation was the availability and variety of produce. Every group I have spoken with has brought up something regarding wanting more produce either included in their meals or available for their selection.

How is it working out this year with free breakfast and lunch for all students?
I’m incredibly excited that we have been able to offer free breakfast and lunch for all students. It definitely has complicated menu planning because our production numbers are so much higher
than they’ve ever been so adjustments to the number and variety of offerings have been necessary. Overall, I strongly believe it’s been such a positive both for our program and for the community in general.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m so excited and honored to have joined the Chartwells team at AAPS. I would ask for some patience as major menu and nutrition changes do take time but I look forward to working closely with students, staff, and parents to improve the program taking into account everyone’s voices and perspectives.

Mason discusses menu options with the A2 STEAM Student Council

The AAPS District News welcomes thoughtful comments, questions and feedback.

All comments will be screened and moderated.

In order for your comment to be approved:

  • You must use your full name
  • You must not use  profane or offensive language
  • Your comment must be on topic and relevant to the story

Please note: any comment that appears to be spam or attacks an individual will not be approved.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.