[Courtesy photo]

Burrito bowls, chicken alfredo, tortilla pinwheels. Grand breakfasts and smoothies. Pizzageddon. These are some of the new meals debuting at Grand County schools this year.

As schools reopen, all enrolled students in the Grand County School District (online or in-person) can receive free breakfasts and lunches. The free meals are being made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Students at Grand County middle and high schools will enjoy Pizzageddon and Base Camp Burrito Bowls, while new options like tortilla pinwheels will be served at the elementary school. All students attending in person will have smoothie options. 

The creator behind the fresh new menus is Grand County School District’s new Child Nutrition Program Director, Alysha Packard. 

So what else is cooking in Moab with school nutrition, enrollment for the free and reduced lunch program, food service and COVID-19 procedures? Here are 12 questions with Alysha. 


Who qualifies for free meals?

Alysha: Until Dec. 31, all enrolled students with Grand County School District can get free breakfast and lunch. This includes online and in person. More information is on the website tinyurl.com/moablunchlady and we still need people to complete the free and reduced lunch application regardless of their income.


What is changing on the menus?

There are more kid-friendly options that are also budget friendly and will give

kids more variety during breakfast and lunch. We’ve added more deli sandwiches and wraps and smoothies for breakfast. We’re putting in a snack bar at the high school. I threw out all the old menus and created new menus with new recipes. I researched new menu ideas and connected with parents to get feedback on the menu. Some of the parent and student feedback was to offer a ramen noodle bar.

Tell us about the smoothies. This is new for the schools. Are they healthy?

There’s a myth that fruit sugar is bad for kids, but science shows that children need proportionate meals. The smoothie recipes I designed count as a reimbursable breakfast item. It means they contain all three meal components required by the USDA to make a complete nutritious meal. Each smoothie has a full serving of fresh fruit, a full serving of vegetables and a full serving of dairy. There is no artificial flavoring, no food coloring, no preservatives.

Where can parents and students find these new menus?

Refrigerator magnet menus are available at the District Office. The district’s new website has a section called “Parents” and if they click on “Nutrition and Food Services,” the menus for the schools are at the bottom of the page as PDFs. Or type tinyurl.com/moablunchlady into your browser.


What other changes to service can students expect in the new school year?

We’ve changed the serving lines so they’ll go faster and get more kids through the lines quicker. We’ve also added more locations at the middle school for breakfast. We’ve changed where the cashier is located in the lines and we’ve changed how the meals are served. This is all to keep students safe during COVID and to help improve the cafeterias.


How will food be served with the COVID-19 precautions and the Board of Education’s approved plan?

A lot of food is being prepackaged so it will be faster to serve and it will be safer. We have face masks and shields and gloves. We installed extra hand sanitizers in the cafeterias and teachers are helping with handwashing. We’re going to try to distance everyone in the cafeteria by spreading the kids out more as needed. We follow the USDA rules and we are working with USDA, the Utah State Board of Education and the Southeast Utah Health Department. As the health department updates its recommendations for safe food service we will follow all of the recommendations. I’m expecting the Utah State Board of Education to issue more guidelines. We’ll continue using the plan.

You came to work in Moab this year and relocated from Grand Junction, Co., where you were the kitchen manager during the norovirus outbreak at Mesa County School District. What’s a key takeaway you learned in Mesa County that you’re able to bring here to the Grand County School District?

In Mesa County, we were one of the hardest-hit elementary schools by norovirus. It’s super helpful in this COVID-19 situation to have experienced the norovirus outbreak because I had already gone through the shutdowns and re-openings for norovirus. I’m an expert at cleaning and keeping kids safe. I think that being able to handle a situation like that, between norovirus and COVID, gives me the knowledge to know how to transition our food service program no matter what is happening in the community.


What’s your goal with the free and reduced lunch program for the new school year?

I would like to see our enrollment increase for the free and reduced lunch program at all schools. Enrollment has been declining, but we think there are children who are eligible but whose parents have not completed applications for the program. 

The free and reduced lunch program can help eligible families offset the costs of child nutrition. How much does school lunch cost?

If you are approved for free lunch, there is no charge for school breakfast and lunch. If you’re approved for reduced meals, breakfast is 30 cents and lunch is 40 cents. You can feed your student on a reduced lunch fee for less than $200 for a whole school year. The lunch and breakfast for full-pay students varies between the elementary and secondary schools. All of the prices are available on the website. The average cost of a packed lunch from home for a kid is $5, whereas the most expensive meal we offer is $3.50 for a student.

How can parents sign up for free and reduced lunch?

There are applications at the schools. They can also apply on Aspire, the student/parent portal on the website (https://sis.seschools.org/Login/). Every family has to complete a new application for this school year even if they had one approved last year.

How long does it take to get a free and reduced lunch application approved?

It can take up to 10 days, but if you apply online it’s generally less than 24 hours.

If people need help completing an application, or have other questions, what should they do?

There are directions on the website for paper and online applications in both English and Spanish. For more information, parents can call me at 435-259-2757. Go online and visit tinyurl.com/moablunchlady for more information.

This article is courtesy of the Grand County Public School District.