Nutrition Services Department Renamed Culinary Services

Summary: New name for the central office team with the same mission — tasty and healthy meals for students!

The Seattle Public Schools Nutrition Services department has been renamed to better reflect the department’s overall mission and its service to students, families, and staff. Beginning this week, the department will be called Culinary Services. 

During the 2021-22 school year, hot meals and grab-and-go options will be provided at all 104 schools. The structure of lunch may look different in order to follow health and safety protocols. Breakfast and lunch will be provided for free for all students all school year.  

For K-5 students participating the Virtual Option Pilot Program, students will have access to a pick-up option at a school near them. 

Since Culinary Services Director Aaron Smith joined SPS in 2018, he has been working to create tasty and healthy meals that are culturally relevant for our students.  

The Culinary Services team asked school communities for feedback on new menu items in 2019. Students and families taste-tested dishes, including Somali Chicken Stew, Lemongrass Chicken Dumplings, Misir Wot with Ingera, Smoked Salmon Chowder, Chicken Tinga, Beef Brisket, and Chickpea Tikka Masala.  

“Over the past couple of years, while the team has been doing a great job providing meals to the students, we’ve also been concentrating on the creative side of what we serve and what we decide to put on the menu,” said Director Smith. “We’ve got more emphasis on recipe creation and serving culturally relevant meals to our students, while still prioritizing their nutritional needs.” 

During remote learning, staff stepped up to provide key supports to students and families. Last fall, the department distributed an average of 30,000 meals per day. The meals included breakfast and lunch meals for students, as well as a new program featuring fresh fruits and vegetables. 

The department has also started working with students to generate career readiness by creating online and in-person culinary classes for students and families. 

Prior to finalizing the name change, Mr. Smith sought feedback from students, families, SPS principals, and community groups.  

“Through the engagement we did, we identified possibly expanding the department into catering, adding a dinner program, and possibly adding a food truck,” said Director Smith. 

Thank you to our Culinary Services staff across the district for supporting students and families. Their work will be key in supporting 180 Days of Excellence — the number of days in the 2021-22 school year — this fall.