Diamond School District to grow, sustain its own food supply

DIAMOND, Mo. – After Diamond School District said goodbye to its food service provider last spring, it’s looking ahead to implement its own, more sustainable option for serving food this school year. 

After the district’s contract ended with Opaa! Food Management, Diamond School District decided to bring back its stand-alone Wildcat Cafe. The district was self-sustainable all the way up until 2010, but eventually began using food management services. After talks with other self-sustaining schools in the area such as Sarcoxie and Joplin, the school district had its answer.

Diamond Superintendent Dr. Keith White said he believes the district will save an estimated $70,000 to $80,000 a year by steering away from the company.

“Everything is looking good, but time will tell. We want to put that money right back into our kids and have better food,” White told The Heartlander.

“Everything in our mission, our vision and for Wildcat Nation is what is best for our kiddos. To make sure our students have the best experience while they’re here, to help them get fueled up and ready for school.”

White says he spoke with Joplin Schools child nutritionist Rick Kenkel, because if a stand-alone system is working for such a large district, he knows the Diamond Wildcat family could pull it off too. 

The district receives USDA-approved meat from a grocer in Springfield and dairy products from Highland Dairy.

To head its restarted in-house program, Diamond Schools handed out applications in search of a food service director and found a woman who has been in the local catering business for many years and runs a business of her own.

“We felt very confident she could do what we needed her to do and she has done a great job,” White said.

The FFA chapter at Diamond has taken it upon itself to supply the district with healthier, non-salty seasonings. White says public schools have to be careful about salt, due to federal guidelines, and are always looking for safe new ways to improve the taste of school breakfasts and lunch. 

Diamond’s agriculture teacher helped build gardens for the ag students to farm. They will focus on herbs, lettuce, tomatoes and a variety of other items for the Wildcat Cafe. White is happy with the sustainability of the school-grown foods, but also appreciates the hands-on experience it will deliver to students.

“They understand the work they are putting in is also improving the food experience for everyone, including themselves. Farm-to-table is the most ideal situation.”

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