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By Crystal Hayduk

Ask parents to name their most common frustrations and it’s likely that feeding their children will consistently make the list. If Junior loves beans, little sister probably doesn’t. Do parents resort to serving pasta for dinner every day? In mealtime battles, there are only losers.  

Imagine meal planning for hundreds of children who have specific likes and dislikes (many with allergies or special dietary needs) while sticking to federal guidelines, a budget, and managing the staff that puts plans into action. As the food services director for Chelsea School District (CSD), Deb Over has the responsibility of planning daily meals for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade, among many other duties. Over is an employee of Chartwells, the company that CSD has contracted with since January, 2016 to manage the district’s food services program.

She began working in Chelsea on July 5.

Over’s food services team is currently 16 staff members strong, but the district is looking to add to that number. (Employment link here: https://sites.google.com/a/chelsea.k12.mi.us/humanresources/employment-opportunities.) Since the start of the school year, the school lunch participation rate has grown by six percent, and she anticipates continued growth once some of her ideas have been incorporated.

Courtesy photo. Deb Over, food services director.

For example, Over hopes to streamline the lunch flow at the high school, in addition to offering a “student store” complete with music. Menu options will also include heartier entrees.

Recently, Over completed a waiver to permit the district to offer 50 percent whole grain. Students can expect to see white-crust pizza on the menu again by Dec. 1, if not earlier. She said the district is part of the National School Lunch Program, which provides federal dollars to pay for meals for eligible children. In exchange, the district must meet federal meal requirements. “There’s a happy medium,” said Over. Her challenge is to come up with choices that are healthy, yet still appetizing and comforting.

Over has worked in the K-12 food industry in a number of states, including Arizona, Mississippi, Ohio, and Indiana, but she’s thrilled to be back in Michigan and closer to her family at this point in her career. Her varied background includes education in criminal justice, business, and nutrition. Together with her penchant for analytics and team building, she has the perfect skill set to lead school district food services.

She is excited by the challenges in Chelsea. “Things are more complex here. There are more food programs than in most districts this size when you add the meals at the senior center and the GSRP (Great Start Readiness Program), for instance. There’s a lot going on here,” she said.

Over is pleased to have landed work in the Chelsea School District. “Not only is this a top-rated school district, but the kids are really nice, and they have great families,” she said. “I’m passionate about food service, and I want to take care of the customers. It’s all about the kids.”

For more information and monthly updates, visit http://chartwellsk12.compass-usa.com/chelseaschoolsdiningservices.

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