Office of Nutrition and Food Services 2018 Menu Rollout

August 27, 2018

When it comes to the Department of Justice, an often-overlooked item is the sheer size and scope of feeding and housing the youth in its care.  At any given moment, over 1200 youth are housed and fed by DJJ.  In terms of feeding, that is over 3,600 meals and snacks that have to be accounted for each and every day. Aside from this volume of meals, DJJ is staked with the challenge of making sure that each of these meals meet all nutritional guidelines for youth and that the meals are interesting enough to provide variety for the multitude of individual food tastes.

In short, the Office of Nutrition and Food Services must provide healthy and varied meals that are tasty and interesting and that can be created quickly within the budgetary limitations of the division.

Piece of cake, no?

For Director Lauren Gean and the entire Office of Nutrition and Food Services staff, this yearly food challenge requires the creation of a new menu for each facility in the DJJ system.  While other institutions may be rigid in formulating their menus and diets, menu development at DJJ has turned into a collaborative effort with an exciting new system-wide rollout each year.

The Office of Nutrition and Food Services (ONFS) just hosted their third annual Menu Rollout Meeting at the US Foods Fairburn location.  Approximately 80 DJJ staff members including facility Food Service Directors, Assistant Food Service Directors, Business Managers, and Central Office ONFS staff members participated in the School Year 2018-2019 menu rollout.  Dietitian Jessika Anderson was on hand to review the new menu with the staff and to provide everyone with the new recipes for the year.   In addition, a highlight of the rollout was a taste testing of many of the new menu items.

This year’s menu was developed as a year-round project with implementation begun at the beginning of the school year. Feedback was gathered from Food Service staff and DJJ youth several times throughout the year. Dietician Jessika Anderson visited five DJJ facilities to hear from youth, leading to the addition and removal of popular and unpopular food items.   This year, Dietician Anderson will expand her fact-finding tour to include all DJJ facilities.

Taste and new food trends are important to the ONFS team in developing the newest menus.  Several new food items were added after attending the Georgia School Nutrition Association annual conference vendor show that allowed DJJ staff sample hundreds of news food items that met USDA Child Nutrition Program guidelines to include food items with whole grain and low sodium.  After products were selected for cost effectiveness, nutrition and taste, ONFS staff had facility youth sample the products to see if these were items they would be interested in eating during the year. Those food items with the highest scores meeting the ONFS criteria were added to the SY 18-19 menu.

The ONFS Menu Rollout is also a great opportunity for food service workers from across Georgia to meet and share together.  According to Dietician Anderson, it is “enjoyable getting all of the ONFS staff together in one room to not only provide information, but to interact and for everyone to get to know one another personally.  (The ONFS staff) has a great time reviewing the new menu and sampling tasty food items.”

For Director Gean, the food roll-out “improves communication with our food service team and provides better uniformity in meals and preparation. I am consistently impressed by the dedication and positive relationships the food service team builds with the youth at their facilities.  Food is an everyday necessity for these kids, but the positive reinforcement they receive from those preparing and serving their meals is just as important.”

The level of skill and dedication of the ONFS workers at the Menu Rollout was admired by all who attended, even those individuals without a food service background.  After noting that she was “impressed by the variety of choices that complied with USDA nutrition guidelines” and that the “centralized menu rollout meeting was a great way to bring the food service directors and administrative staff together for the introduction of the new menu, ensure that everyone received the same information and materials, and to create an opportunity to network with colleagues”, Assistant Deputy Commissioner Lisa Mantz still found other positives from the Menu Rollout. Quoting Mantz:

“I was surprised about how many samples of food that I helped serve.   I didn’t realize how many meals can be made from scratch recipes.  That the favorite item on the menu was a chicken pot pie recipe created by the Dalton Food Service Director. Meal preparation for our youth is very important.  We have a responsibility to provide the youth with a tasty and healthy meal, prepared and served safely, that meets all the dietary requirements and that youth will eat. Our staff does a great job incorporating Georgia Grown Products into the menu rotation and being responsive.”

Congratulations again to the Office of Nutrition and Food Services staff and to all DJJ employees who help make sure that the agency is on the cutting edge of food technology and delivery.

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