Kurfman keeps kids fed

CLARION – More than 800 students count on Michelle Kurfman and her staff to provide breakfast and lunch throughout the school year.

Kurfman, who has served as food services director of the Clarion-Goldfield-Dows school district for the past 15 years, said she enjoys the job.

“I like to bake and cook,” she said. “I started as a cook for the school when my son started 3-year-old preschool. The job was a natural fit for our family.”

Food service has as been a part of her entire life. Kurfman was raised in Goldfield, where her family’s business was a restaurant and grocery store.

Kurfman and her staff of nine begin each school day early.

“Breakfasts are served a la carte at the high school daily from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m.,” she said. “Elementary and middle school students are served breakfasts from 8 to 8:20 a.m.”

While breakfasts are offered and served, the bulk of the meals are served at lunch time.

“Nearly 600 elementary and middle school students eat in shifts, beginning at 11 a.m. and concluding at 12:45 p.m.,” Kurfman said. “Between 250 and 280 high school students eat lunch between 11:15 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. here at the high school.”

Kurfman said there is a balancing act between cooking food which are nutritious and what students like to eat.

“We are always trying to introduce new foods into the menu and then monitor how well they might be received,” she said. “We have more and more government regulations, attempting to provide better and better nutrition for our young people.”

Two new items being added for the 2014-2015 school year are buffalo chicken wraps and an apple yogurt/raisin salad.

According to CGD Superintendent Robert Olson, Kurfman runs a very efficient program that provides wholesome nutritious meals that comply with federal requirements.

“She is creative and utilizes all the resources at her disposal,” Olson said. “She assists in such things as providing food for our annual Teacher Appreciation Week breakfast or allowing community groups to use the school kitchen for fundraisers.”

Continually learning is part of Kurfman’s job. She is a state-certified school nutritionist and takes frequent classes on food safety and complying with new standards of nutrition.

“There has been much discussed about new federal regulations for school lunches,” she said. “We are required to keep calorie contents within certain ranges for various ages of students. We also must be aware of the sugar, sodium, trans fats and saturated fats of the foods and menus which we prepare. Even before some the new standards, our schools offered salad bars for the students in middle school and high school, with a fruit and vegetable bar for the upper elementary students.”

To help make foods even more healthy, “old favorite” recipes are altered to include such things as whole grains or low-fat for desserts.

Preparing students’ favorites are always the fun part for Kurfman and her team’s job.

“To start the school year, when it is sometimes pretty warm, we have planned menu items such as tacos, sub sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, or pizza,” she said.

Beth Harker is one of her cooking team who enjoys working with Kurfman.

“I can’t say enough about Michelle,” Harker said. “She makes meals which are very good and which most students enjoy. We see her working for hard to do a good job for the students, the school and the community.”

“I am looking forward to another good school year,” said Kurfman. “I really enjoy the kids and hopefully, we will be able to get them to eat more and more healthy.”