As a new mother, it was a great move for me and my family. I was able to take a step back from a busy career and focus on my family, but still do what I love, which is child nutrition.Kristy Alvord, Great Bend USD 428 food services director.
If you are having problems feeding one or two picky eaters at home, imagine the challenge facing Kristy Alvord.
As the new USD 428 food services director, she has about 2,800 children to try and please at breakfast and lunch five days a week.
“When creating a school menu, we have to remember that we want our students to eat and that something is better than nothing,” Alvord said. “I have to find that balance between giving the student healthy choices and giving them healthy choices that they will eat.
“My main goal for this school year is to provide students with choices. I have changed the meal service at the elementary levels to what we call Offer vs. Serve.
“In previous years elementary lunches were on the ‘serve program,’ which meant that what was on the menu was served to all students. They had to take everything served on their plates.
“Offer vs. Serve is where students at the elementary level get a choice in what they eat. I call it a ‘learning lunch,’” she said. “Students need to learn how to make choices for themselves. We encourage them to make healthy choices and try new foods.
“They will have two entrees to choose from; then, they can choose which side dishes they want to eat. Students will also serve themselves.
“The only requirement is that they take the entree and at least one fruit or vegetable side. However, they are encouraged to take more if they will eat it. Milk is no longer required, but encouraged. Water is available to all students, as well.
“In the beginning it will be hard for students and staff to learn the new meal-service plan, but after a few weeks I think everyone will get the hang of it,” she said. “We just need to be patient with the students and show them what they need to do.”
Alvord said there will be new items on the menu that she knows will be popular since they were piloted last year at Lincoln School with good results. They include Yogurt, Muffin and Cheese Plate and Pumpkin Bread Slice for breakfast and Nacho Cheese Walking Tacos (“just like at the carnivals,” she said), Lasagna Bake and Pepperoni Calzone. There will also be a fresh fruit choice daily.
Alvord has been with the district for four years, working as the cafeteria manager at Great Bend Middle School for two years and at the Central Kitchen as the assistant director for two years.
“I have been in school food service for 11 years total now,” she said. “I started my career in the Kansas City, Kan., school district where I was the operations manager overseeing 43 school cafeterias.”
Alvord, the former Kristy Schneider, was born and raised in Great Bend and is a 1996 Great Bend High School graduate.
“In 2014 I decided to move back here to raise my son near family,” she said. “As a new mother, it was a great move for me and my family. I was able to take a step back from a busy career and focus on my family, but still do what I love, which is child nutrition.”
Alvord has a Bachelor of Science degree in hotel/restaurant management from Kansas State University. She thought she would one day own a restaurant, but found her passion in child nutrition.
Other changes Alvord has already put into place include having specially made tables with sneeze guards that collapse for easier storage. Still on her list of things to do is setting up online meal applications and a text/email system for low-account balances.
Alvord replaced Karl Sprague, who recently retired after 24 years with USD 428.