Jack Miniard is no stranger to the Harlan County School District.
Miniard, who served as a member of the Harlan County Board of Education for eight years, recently returned to the district as the School Food Services Director, a position he “loves.”
“It is very challenging but very rewarding,” he said.
Miniard took over the position at a time when students were experiencing substantial changes in the cafeteria stemming from the implementation of the federal government’s Health and Hungry Free Kids Act.
“This is the first time it had changed in 15 years. And, it was as total change,” says Miniard, reflecting on work that has taken place since July.
Miniard credits the teamwork of many in the district with meeting the demand for the required change, saying it wouldn’t have been possible on such a quick turnaround had it not been for the hard work put forth by the district’s staff/
As director, Miniard oversees the food service program for eight elementary schools, Harlan County High School and the Appalachian Challenge Academy. The schools serve breakfast and lunch five days each week, while the academy staff prepares and serves three meals each day seven days per week.
Miniard explained the federal regulations require minimum portion sizes of meat/meat alternate, fruit, vegetable, grains and fluid milk during every lunch meal served. There are weekly regulations concerning meals as well.
“The portion sizes are designed to meet the needs of growing children,” he said. “Menus are also planned to include a variety of choices and changes have been made in the specifications and preparation to lower sodium, fat and calories in school meals.”
He was able to breath a sigh of relief in late March after receiving excellent marks state and federal reviews back to back in a two-week period.
As part of the federal program, it is imperative that the district be in compliance or “they will take your money back,” he said.
This week Miniard found himself at the HCHS cafeteria offering students samples for future student choices in the lunchroom. Miniard, his staff and the high school principals, served students with a new Asian testing choice. The reviews appear positive and the additional menu option may soon appear in the serving lines.
Upon completion of the administration audit and the validation reviews, Miniard is pleased to find that the HCPS food service department is in the top 15 percent in the state for validation of the quality, portion size and nutrition value for the meal. This resulted in the district earning 6 extra cents from the federal government per meal served. With extremely tight budgets to begin with, every penny counts, he said.
“We have to fix a meal for breakfast for $1.85 for lunch at $2.88,” he said. “This is a challenge.”
Miniard has obtained 36 certifications from the University of Mississippi in food service and earned Level III status, which is the highest obtainable. He is a graduate of James A. Cawood High School. He has seven children and eight grandchildren, with another on the way.