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CMSD to serve summer meals

CMSD will serve meals to students again this summer.

Starting Tuesday, hot breakfast, lunch and dinner will be provided at select sites. This is the second year for a program that is designed to help combat hunger in one of America’s poorest cities.

Breakfast will be available Monday through Friday at one school, while lunch is served at 13 schools and dinner at three schools. In most cases, the meals will end on Friday, July 28.

CMSD and other students younger than 18 will eat for free, with the federal government reimbursing the District for expenses. Parents and caregivers who accompany the children will pay a small fee that covers the cost of the food.

For a list of sites, with dates and hours of operation, go here.

Chris Burkhardt, executive director of food and child nutrition services, hopes to continue the dinner service and expand the number of sites after the school year begins Aug. 14. The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is helping the District identify neighborhoods where free meals are in short supply.

Burkhardt wants to see not only that children have food, but also that items served in District cafeterias are both appetizing and nutritious.

Spurring demand is particularly important in high schools, where teenagers often come in with little time to grab breakfast and fewer than half eat the lunches.

Burkhardt said he and staff will chat with kids during summer meals and gauge their likes and dislikes. When the school year begins, students will be added to new menu committees in the buildings.

Burkhardt has been talking with vendors about new and innovative products. Schools will customize their menus and swap out items that are not well received, he said.

“It’s not nutritious if it’s not in their stomachs,” Burkhardt said. “We want to put together food that kids want to eat, not what they have to eat.”

Burkhardt believes CMSD can spark interest with hand-held foods that are convenient for multi-tasking youngsters. He also thinks students will go for bold, spicy and exotic flavors that have become trendy.

Among the new products his department is considering are baked calzones, stuffed with pepperoni made from turkey so it is acceptable to those who shun pork. Another option could be restaurant-quality flatbreads that cafeteria teams would creatively drizzle with various toppings and seasonings.

Old favorites like cheeseburgers and pizza won’t disappear but will come with 100 percent beef, low-fat and low-sodium cheese and whole grains. Properly formulated, the products will still be tasty, Burkhardt said.

Burkhardt joined the District in March after nine years as director of child nutrition and wellness for the Lakota schools, near Cincinnati. He previously was operations manager for CMSD.

In 2015, Food Service Director magazine named Burkhardt one of the 10 most influential people in the business.