Sartell has good reason – actually, many good reasons – to be proud of Brenda Braulick, the food-services director for the Sartell-St. Stephen School District. Recently, she was elected to be president of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association.
Since 1999, Braulick has worked in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District’s food-service program. As director, she has been a veritable treasure trove of innovations, creativity, communication skills and connectedness with students’ families. She has brilliantly used that combination of talents to promote and to deliver not just delicious, nutritious meals but to educate students and families about the importance of good nutrition throughout a lifetime.
Many people probably think of school lunches as a kind of hash assembly line with cooks churning out food without much effort or thought. Nothing could be further from the truth. Each meal served is, in fact, carefully planned ahead of time for taste appeal, eye appeal and nutritional needs. Special meals must also be prepared for students with dietary restrictions of one sort or another.
School-lunch preparation is a complex juggling act, and Braulick and her staff are master jugglers in that respect. For example, food safety is paramount and must constantly be monitored. Also under constant vigilance is the quality of food products, the likes and dislikes of finicky-eating students and – last but not least – government mandates and guidelines. All of those factors are constant, ever-changing challenges Braulick and her staff meet time and again with good cheer.
Last year, especially, was a challenge when the food-service department introduced strict federal standards for meals that limited the amount of calories per each meal, along with limiting the amount of fats, sugar and salt. Some students were not at all happy about the changes, and some dropped out of the lunch program. Fortunately, this year, so far, participation in the program has been increasing again.
One of Braulick’s outstanding qualities is she is never completely satisfied with food service. She is constantly seeking ways to make it better, with her goal of serving tasty, nutritious meals. But preparing and serving those meals is just half the battle. Braulick has done outstanding outreach education for parents and even grandparents, who are encouraged whenever possible to eat school lunches with children. She encourages families to do all sorts of educational food-related activities: grocery shopping together, gardening together, cooking together and eating together for at least one of the daily meals. Braulick is well aware of how those activities not only help families bond but also set good generational examples for happy, healthy, nutritious lifetimes.
Those are just some of the reasons Sartell should be proud of Brenda Braulick. She and her hard-working staff deserve a heartfelt “Thank You.”