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Everyone eats Breakfast

Breakfast Fuels Brighter Brains!

Smiling girlStarting the day with a nutritious breakfast is one of the keys to learning. Brains – of any age – can’t function unless they have good fuel. Unfortunately, many Tukwila School District (TSD) students arrive at school hungry. Fortunately, this challenge has been overcome for the vast majority of our students. We are committed to providing a free and nutritious breakfast to all of our students every day!

TSD is setting the national pace for programs that help ensure every student has the brainpower to listen carefully and participate fully in class. At the secondary level, “GRAB and GO” offers ‘breakfast in a bag’ that students can eat before the first period bell or during the first 15 minutes of class.  Breakfast bags include fresh fruit and milk, and a choice of eight different breakfast favorites like Yoplait yogurt and graham crackers, hot egg and cheese biscuits, bagels and cream cheese, assorted cold cereal bowls, and more.

To encourage students to participate, contests are held monthly at Showalter Middle School. (Showalter). Prizes, including two Kindle Fires donated by the United Way of King County, were given to students who found a randomly-placed Lucky Golden Coin in their Grab & Go bags. This program has tripled student participation in breakfast at Showalter compared with the former “eat before the bell in the cafeteria “concept.

At elementary schools, a Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program serves a free breakfast to all students. Meals are served in the classroom where children eat during the morning announcements. The number of students receiving this breakfast has quadrupled to an average of more than 400 students per day at each school. BIC meals feature a breakfast entrée and include fruit, milk and whole grain items.

Tukwila’s schools offer three healthy meals, including breakfast for all
(Source: Tukwila Reporter, April 2016, by Dean Radford)


Trish Timm, a cook in the Showalter Middle School kitchen, stirs a big batch of spaghetti sauce.

Tukwila’s schools take to heart the adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, offering that morning fuel for free to all of Tukwila’s roughly 2,800 students.

But the Tukwila School District isn’t stopping there.

It has applied for a federal grant that will allow it to offer a free breakfast, lunch and dinner to EVERY student in the district, even those whose families don’t qualify for a free or reduced-cost meal.

About 80 percent of Tukwila’s students get the free breakfast under the federal National School Lunch Program. The school district picks up the tab for the rest to ensure every student has the option to receive one.

About 1,500 breakfasts are served daily, which means that not all students are taking advantage of the free meal. But those who do are getting a healthy, nutritious meal that follows strict federal guidelines that limit salt, sugar and processed flour, which are linked to heart disease and obesity.

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Food Research and Action Center: Focus on Obesity and Poverty

April 2016 newsletter

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) is pleased to release this new issue of FRAC Focus: Obesity and Poverty. This periodical e-newsletter focuses on obesity and low-income children and adults, looking at the intersection of obesity, low income, food insecurity, the federal nutrition programs, and federal food and nutrition policy.

Read more …

Free breakfast at every school

February 2016

Sophomore Arin Allen-JackSophomore Arin Allen-Jack gave a thumbs up to the bagel option during the kick off of the Grab & Go Breakfast program at Foster High School in early February. With the rollout at Foster, now all Tukwila students at every school—from preschool through graduation—get a free daily breakfast as part of their regular school day. Research shows that breakfast is important for increasing students’ attention, focus, and ability to learn in the classroom. With the free-for-all breakfast program, schools have had a 300 percent to 400 percent increase in the number of students starting their day with a nutritious, brain-building meal!

Showalter feeds 300% more kids with new ‘Grab & Go Breakfast’

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director; and Tori Sarris and Yan Yan Teague, AmeriCorps members
Feb. 17, 2016

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Unfortunately for many families, getting breakfast in the morning isn’t as simple as it might sound. Due to time and budget constraints, countless students head off to school each morning on an empty stomach.

Without a nutritious start to their day, these kids might end up struggling with attentiveness and have low energy and poor class participation. Studies prove that students who don’t eat breakfast have a disadvantage compared to those that do—they have more absences, tardiness, and lower test scores than peers who start their day with a meal.

The Tukwila School District believes that no child should be hungry and that all educational disadvantages should be equaled. Therefore, we announce with great pleasure that there’s an innovative new way for all elementary and middle-school students to get their hands on a convenient, nutritious, and (most importantly to young taste buds) delicious breakfast every day—all for … wait for it … FREE!



Showalter students enjoy breakfast

In mid-December, Showalter Middle School joined our elementary schools in offering free breakfast to every student as part of the regular school day. With the support of United Way of King County and its team of AmeriCorps members, the Tukwila Food Service Department unveiled a new “Grab & Go” breakfast model that increased the number of entrées being offered from two choices to six (Fruit smoothies! Yogurt parfaits! Bagels! Cereal or Cereal Bars! PP&J sandwiches!).

All meals are pre-bagged and ready to grab and include side items like cheese sticks, dried fruit, applesauce and fruit or juice cups. Kids with heartier appetites may also add an additional piece of whole fruit and/or milk as well.

Like at our elementary schools, one of the most innovative aspects of the new breakfast model is that students do not have to come early to participate, which is the case in more traditional school breakfast programs. That barrier—plus the stigma of being singled out in the cafeteria because they qualify for breakfast based on low income—prevents many eligible students from eating breakfast. With the new Grab & Go model, students show up for school at the normal time and everyone participates—students can now even eat in their classroom for the first few minutes of the day if they run out of time in the cafeteria.

    “It has been better than we had hoped for”

Already, participation has increased more than 300 percent, from an average of 115 to over 375 students eating breakfast each morning. With so many students now getting a nutritious start to their day, teachers report that students have higher energy levels and a renewed ability to focus on morning tasks.

“It has been better than we had hoped for,” said Showalter Principal Brett Christopher. “We have had very few problems with messes or lost class time, which was one of our biggest concerns, but we felt it was worth a try because it is hard to argue against a program that provides our children a FREE morning meal to jump start their day.”

What’s next? From February through June, United Way of King County will host a school breakfast challenge that will include prizes for students, staff, and schools. In the Tukwila School District, we are hoping to expand free-breakfast-for-all to Foster High School this school year, giving every student a chance to start the day happy, healthy, and ready to learn!

School meals—the actual cost of serving our kids

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Nov. 5, 2014

I recently had an opportunity to speak with a few parents who had some great questions about the quality and variety of the meals we serve here in the Tukwila School District. As I like to do in these situations, I asked them to guess how much money, on average, we have to spend on each student-lunch we serve. These particular parents said that about $5 sounded right (over the years, I have found that most people estimate between $3 and $8).

So what’s the right answer? You will be shocked, I almost guarantee it! Before I tell you, let me explain a little more about the unique challenges and requirements that shape our school meals program. In addition to budget restraints, we have two objectives when we prepare our school menus:

  1. Meeting the meal requirements of the USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). School districts rely on the federal government to fund their meal programs by paying for low-income students and reimbursing other costs. In order to qualify for those federal dollars, every meal must include five components: a serving of milk, fruits, vegetables, protein (meat or an alternative), and whole grain. This is a very simplified version of an 82-page, small-type-single-spaced document that spells out exactly what each meal must contain—trust me when I say that it’s a daunting job to read and understand all the variations and nuances of the guidelines let alone to implement them. On top of required components, there are minimums and maximums for calories, trans-fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrates for each meal. Our state superintendent’s office holds regular workshops and audits to ensure strict compliance. In other words, if we do not carefully put together each element of each meal according to federal specifications, we will lose our funding.
  2. Making food that is both “healthy” and something kids will actually eat. So now that we know what components are required for each meal, the next challenge is to try to combine them into something that kids will actually eat and hopefully even like. Parents, imagine the struggles with your own kids trying to get them to eat what you serve—now expand that to 2,000 kids every day. Gulp! Entrees need to be appealing and served with fresh fruits and vegetables when possible. Pan- or deep-fried food is out, as is trans-fat and absolutely no butter or salt can be added. Hmm, sounds yummy already, right? We also have to creatively use a large allotment of government commodity ingredients, which typically include thaw-and-serve items, canned fruits and vegetables, and frozen cheeses. All our meals must hold well in a steam table or warming cabinet for several minutes before serving, and/or be able to be appealingly packaged for quick grab-and-go service. We have a limited number of staff hours that can go into preparation, we need different variety every day, and we have many different cultures with dietary restrictions. You can see why this is a challenge!

Now that you have a sense of the requirements, let’s go back to the original question: How much money on average do we have to spend per meal as we plan our menus? Drumroll … when the cost of labor and equipment/utilities are backed out, we have $1.15 to spend on food.


Yes, barely more than one dollar. Right off the top, milk costs about 25¢, leaving 90¢ to provide a fruit, vegetable, protein, and grain. Again, consider what you might come up with if you went to your local grocer with that budget while needing to purchase all five components, meet strict nutritional requirements, AND getting something your kids will eat without a fight.

But you know what? We actually find ways to do it, and if you have ever been to one of our cafeterias, you will see some kids actually running to get to the food serving lines. It certainly is not perfect, and we may not excite and satisfy every kid at every meal. But given the challenges, we do the best we can.

Like the parents who guessed that we spend upwards of $5 per meal, I am sure many families have similar expectations. That is why one of my most important goals is communicating to students, parents, and educators some of the challenges and financial restraints we overcome to serve nearly 4,000 meals every school day. That’s not to say we are not open to suggestions, however, because creativity is key when we are seeking to feed our students fresh, nutritious, delicious meals while meeting federal and budgetary requirements. I welcome input from you.
You can get a hold of me at

For more detailed information on federal guidelines for school meals, visit:

The Actual Cost of Serving Our Kids Part 2: FREE Breakfast after the Bell

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Sept. 29, 2015

The response I got from last year’s article “The Actual Cost of School Meals” (which helps to describe some of the challenges and costs related to the preparation and serving of school lunches required by National School Lunch Program [NSLP]) was so well received that I was asked to provide a similar explanation for our FREE Breakfast after the Bell program served to all our elementary school students.

The federal reimbursement we receive for each breakfast served is on average about $1.67. That must cover not only the cost of the food but also all the related labor costs (union wages, insurance, and benefits) needed to order, receive, store, transport, cook, prepare, deliver to the classrooms, pick-up leftovers, separate and recycle any reusable product or trash, empty and replace garbage cans, clean up any spills, and transport the serving carts back to the central kitchen to be restocked with the over 1,500 meals to be served the next morning.

Part of the $1.67 per meal must also cover our cashier’s labor costs needed to charge our students’ accounts and enter the number of meals served into the state database for reimbursement. It must also be used in part to help cover some of the administrative costs to manage and operate the program including the processing of approximately 2,000 Free & Reduced Applications we receive each year and managing a staff of over 25 Food Service Employees.

The labor costs listed above take over 60 percent of the $1.67 reimbursement. That leaves 40 percent, or approximately 70 cents, as our budget to provide all the components that are required daily by the NSLP for a fully reimbursable breakfast. (click here for the detailed program requirements of the NSLP).

Right off the top, milk is a daily requirement and costs about 23 cents each, leaving us with about 47 cents. With less than two quarters, we must cover the cost of the bag (8 cents) and the napkin, spoon, and straw (4 cents). We have about 35 to 40 cents left to spend on the remaining required meal components. In addition to milk, we must provide a half-cup portion of fruit or fruit juice and an additional half-cup of fruit or vegetable each morning. The last requirement of the NSLP is a grain item—one serving of a whole grain item each day and a minimum of 7 servings per week. This means that on two days of the week, we must provide two grain equivalents instead of one.

So what about protein? This is always the most expensive part of any meal plan, and there is no NSLP requirement for it. We get absolutely no reimbursement or credit when we do serve protein. There is one small exception: We can get reimbursed for protein items only after serving five grain items for the week; we are able to substitute the sixth and seventh grain requirement for the week with a protein and we do this every week, even though it is not required. We strongly believe in stretching our dollar to include protein however we are able. But after the five grains and two protein portions each week, there is no funding left to provide more.

To recap, we have about 35 to 40 cents per breakfast meal and we have a very strict ratio of milk/fruit/veggies/grain that we must provide. The protein items we provide—yogurt/cheese or a cheese breakfast sandwich, for example—cost more than 40 cents by themselves. (In order to provide these proteins, we need to make up the cost overrun by keeping the breakfast menu on other days under budget. For some perspective, remember that we have no federal funding for protein, and we could meet the same nutritional requirements by serving three graham crackers for a cost of 18 cents. In other words, it is a balancing act to stay within budget and manage to still serve any protein items each week. There are days when the meal might look a little on the light side to some, even though it is still completely compliant with the daily Federal requirements. (Also, our meals do include protein in the milk and cheese and in the cereal bar, just not in a traditional sense.)

Given our strict meal requirements and budget, many people—especially those concerned about sugar content—often ask specifically about how we select the grain item each day (pointing out Pop Tarts, Pillsbury fruit strudels, and cereal bars that are in the monthly rotation for our breakfasts). First, each of these items has the required whole-wheat whole grain as a main ingredient, and we aim for the reduced-sugar alternatives whenever possible. But the truth is there are few grain/carb options that are naturally low in sugar. We would serve hash brown stick, for example, but these do not meet the federal grain requirement nor are they considered an allowable vegetable as they are considered a starch. We have to also consider what students will actually eat and how to provide a variety throughout the week and month; otherwise, the breakfast just goes into the trash. When we have explored more natural or homemade grain items, they are just not feasible—they are prohibitively expensive, students will not eat them, and/or they are not packaged to be stored and transported in the hundreds.

Part of my job here is to try to inform people of these challenges. While we share high standards for what an ideal school meal should be, I have very little wiggle room in reality. Hopefully, you can appreciate or at least better understand why we serve what we do. And remember, the breakfasts we provide are FREE to all our kids, including the students who do not qualify for free-/reduced-price meals because the district has chosen to pick up the extra cost for them so that ALL students get them for FREE. For many of our children, these breakfasts are absolutely essential, and Breakfast in the Classroom is significantly better than starting school on an empty stomach.

That said, I absolutely welcome your suggestions, questions, and comments. We all want to provide the most nutritious meals possible for students. Contact me at or 206-901-7823, and we can talk!

“Cool Food”: Tukwila’s schools are committed to making nutrition fun!

By Craig Huckins Food Service Director Tukwila School District
Jan. 13, 2015

Food 12

          Food Service staff proudly wear their 12th Man pride every Friday before game day!

To help combat the old lunchroom and lunch-lady stereotypes created many years ago, one of this year’s goals for the Tukwila School District’s Food Services Department is to add a little fun and excitement to our cafeterias. We believe that if our kids enjoy their breakfast and lunchroom experience, they will be more apt to eat the healthy options we provide. If that positive experience begins at a young age, we hope it will transfer with them to middle school and high school (where it can be especially challenging to get older students to eat a healthy meal) and, ultimately, the rest of their lives.

So let us share with you a few of things that we are doing to make our school food “cool food” and have a little fun in the process:

  • Breakfast in the Classroom Fun-the Golden Coin Game: The purpose of this game is to increase our student’s interest in our free Breakfast in the Classroom program and encourage even more students to open their morning breakfast bags to find something nutritious to eat to start the day right. Every three weeks or so, our elementary lead cooks hide a golden coin in one student’s breakfast bag in each classroom before they are delivered. Students who find the golden coins can redeem them for small prizes from the kitchen staff during lunch period. This very simple game has worked to add some fun and positive energy to the breakfast program and to the lunch program when winning students pick up their prize. Because the game is played on random days, it encourages students to open their breakfast bag every day and look inside; even if there is no coin, they are more apt to find something they want to eat. The faces on our kids tell the story of how these simple prizes can create some fun and some very big toothy smiles as well!
  • Theme day t-shirts-“Go Hawks, Our Food Rocks”: To show our support for our beloved world-champion football team and the 12th Man spirit and to create some fun energy in all our cafeterias, food service staff members wear a specially designed t-shirt every Friday before Seahawk Games. The T-shirts are Seahawk Green and have the words “Go Hawks!” and “Our Food Rocks” written on the front in blue and silver and have the #12 on the back with “TUKWILA” placed where a player’s last name would normally be. For the food service staff, this has turned out to be a fun change of pace from their normal work uniforms and it gives them something in common and exciting to talk about with our kids. On Fridays when there are no Seahawk games, our staff wear a purple long-sleeve t-shirt that says, “Our Food Rocks! Tukwila School District” in white with a gold image of rock star playing the guitar.

What’s happening with school meals?

The United States Department of Agriculture has issued updated nutrition requirements for the National School Meal Program. These changes are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

New nutrition standards for school meals are great news for our kids because they support our school nutrition team’s efforts to create healthier meals.

School Meals Now Offer:

  • A variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; many of which are sourced locally
  • Whole-grain rich foods, such as bread, pasta, rice and tortillas
  • Low-fat milk, water and 100-percent fruit and vegetable juices
  • Lower fat, sugar and salt (sodium) options

Major Meal Changes:

  • Students are required to take one serving of a fruit or vegetable
  • Meals vary in size to meet calorie needs based on the student’s grade level – small for grades K-5, medium for grades 6-8 and large for high schoolers
  • Meals feature a greater variety and more servings of fruits and vegetables, especially dark green or vibrant red and orange vegetables and legumes or beans
  • More whole-grain foods are available
  • Plain low-fat or fat-free milk, or flavored fat-free milk is available
  • Saturated fat has been reduced and all meals contain zero grams of trans fats
  • Salt (sodium) has been reduced in all meals
  • Watch a video to see The New Face of School Meals

Fun Halloween Ideas from the Tukwila Food Services

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Oct. 15, 2014

Wondering what you should do with all those pumpkin seeds guests will be scooping out at your big Halloween party? This yummy, recipe will have folks eating ’em up by the crunchy handfuls! We recommend you do your best to save a few for yourself before they’re gone!

Cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds

1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 325°F.
In small bowl, mix all ingredients. Spread on ungreased cookie sheet in single layer.
Bake about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until seeds begin to brown. Cool.

Garlic Pumpkin seeds

Original recipe makes 2 cups
1 1/2 tablespoons margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Combine the margarine, salt, garlic salt, and Worcestershire sauce and pumpkin seeds. Mix thoroughly and place in shallow baking dish.
Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Cajun Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

“Double or triple this roasted pumpkin seed recipe depending on how many cups of seeds you have. One large pumpkin will generally yield 1 cup or pumpkin seeds, and smaller pie pumpkins will yield about the same amount. Toss a salad with these seeds, sprinkle over a chicken dish, or serve as a snack.”
Original recipe makes 1 cup
1 cup raw whole pumpkin seeds, washed and dried
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, or to taste
salt to taste
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon butter, melte

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C)
Toss pumpkin seeds with paprika, Cajun seasoning, and salt until coated. Mix Worcestershire sauce with melted butter in a small bowl, pour over seeds, and stir to to combine. Spread seeds onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
Roast seeds in the preheated oven until browned and crunchy, 45 minutes to 1 hour; stir and turn seeds several times during roasting.

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Nutrition News from the Tukwila School District

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Sept. 13, 2014

The Tukwila School District believes strongly that full stomachs help children learn. Research has shown that there is a crucial relationship between nutrition and academic performance. We strive to offer quality meals that kids will eat at affordable prices to set our students up for success every day.

All our meals contain zero trans-fat, are never deep fried and are served with fresh local fruits and vegetables every day

Monthly menus are planned to meet USDA specifications and provide more whole grain foods, such as brown rice and whole wheat and also encourage consumption of lean vegetarian and plant based proteins. All our meals contain zero trans-fat, are never deep fried and contain reduced levels of sodium and sugar. In addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables offered on our serving line stations, a daily cold vegetable and fruit bar is featured at all our schools. We offer a variety of vegetables and fruits on the bar including locally grown when seasonally available. Each week we feature deeply colored, nutrient-rich, vegetables including red/orange and dark green varieties, as well as beans, legumes and other addition choices.

Student input is the key to providing meals kids will eat

“We regularly ask for students input and feedback as to what meals they would like to see us provide. Our job is to make sure that we serve healthy, well-balanced meals that students enjoy eating,” says Tukwila School District Food Services Director Craig Huckins. “By giving students a voice – and a choice – in what appears on the menus, we are able to cater to their tastes and provide a larger variety of foods, while also adhering to nutritional standards and guidelines. Based on student input last year, at both Showalter Middle School and Foster High School, we added four new large salads that we now serve every day that kids just ate up—a Chicken Caesar Salad, Oriental Chicken Salad, Chef Salad and Fruit Granola Yogurt Parfaits. We are constantly looking for new and interesting ways to prepare our entrees that meet the delicate balance between nutrition and what they will eat, kids can be pretty choosey sometimes and don’t always make the best choices. We try to help them by adding healthy ingredients to our meals that they may not normally try.”

Information from your Food Service Department

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Aug. 12, 2014

Free and Reduced Meals help provide kids’ books and computers too!

Did you know that a substantial amount of the Federal Funds the Tukwila School District receives each year is based in part on the number of approved Free and Reduced applications that we receive each year? The higher percentage of qualifying students a district has the more federal and state grant money it is eligible to receive for other important learning resources like computers, books and much, much, more!

We certainly prefer that you encourage your child to enjoy the quality, value and convenience our school meals provide, but by submitting a qualifying application students can greatly help their schools funding whether they eat with us or not. New applications must be filled out each year and the new 2014-15 versions are now available at all school offices as well as the administration building and Food Services Department. You can also find copies on our district website that you can print, fill out and submit as well.

FREE on-line payments make funding student meal accounts easier

The Tukwila School District is pleased to continue offering parents the option of making payments to their child’s meal service account FREE of charge by using the REVTRAK portal available on the district website through Family Access. This feature was made FREE to families last year and we experienced a substantial increase in the number of parents who found this convenient way to make sure their child has funds in her food service accounts. You will need a login and password number that can be easily obtained from your child’s school office manager.

Food Service Goals 2014-15: Cold Foods Colder, Hot Foods Hotter

Our food service team takes great pride in trying to consistently provide our students the best meals possible. This year we have set goals that we hope will raise the bar another notch for the quality of our food. Simply stated, our primary goal this year is to find new, fun and innovative ways to prepare and serve cold foods colder and hot foods hotter. We also intend to offer a greater variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and plan to prepare more entrees from scratch recipes thus serving less frozen, thaw and serve type entrée’s. We have also set a goal to find ways to create more fun and excitement in our lunchrooms this year and we have a few surprises planned to help encourage more students to enjoy participating in the program.

Fun Food Facts: The 4 classes of Vegetarians;

  1. True Vegetarians or Vegans- Plant based diet eating no animal, cooked or processed.
  2. Lacto-Vegetarians- Will eat dairy products.
  3. Ovo-Vegetarians- The only animal product they are allowed to eat are eggs
  4. Pesco-Vegetarians- No red meat, but will eat fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.

Not your father’s school cafeteria food anymore!

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Mar. 15, 2014

One of the constant and biggest challenges for school districts across the nation is getting more students to regularly eat the healthy meals that are served at school. Teenagers, as we know, can be especially choosey eaters, and it is an ongoing challenge for middle- and high-school food service departments to provide meals that are not only nutritious and meet the strict USDA requirements but are also cost effective for the school to prepare and serve; then, of course, they have to pass the taste test—if kids won’t eat it, why serve it?

The Tukwila School District food services department is rising to the challenge at Foster High and Showalter Middle School with “restaurant-quality” menu choices: This is the standard we aim for as we provide a menu of options each day. In fact, both schools have between 10 and 20 different lunch entrees every day. We feature items that teens are familiar with seeing on restaurant menus such as rice bowls with teriyaki chicken, General Tso’s chicken with vegetables, chicken mole, sweet-and-sour or orange chicken, hand-crafted jumbo burritos, strawberry or pineapple/mandarin granola yogurt parfaits, chef salads, Oriental chicken salad, Caesar salad, hand-made specialty pizza (cheese, pepperoni, vegetarian, chicken bacon ranch … ), and a build-your-own hoagie bar from which students can pick and choose their favorite meats and veggies. (Are you salivating yet?)

Just like with a healthy breakfast, it’s important for students to have a nutritious lunch to help them learn for the entire school day. If your own child is resistant to a proper mid-day meal, please encourage him or her to check out the “restaurant-quality” food… being served right in their own school cafeteria today! Please visit our website at for information on how your family may qualify to get these delicious meals for FREE or to make on-line deposits into your child’s account at no cost.

Fast and Fun Food Facts (from

  • Water accounts for 55-70 percent of our body weight, and typically a minimum of six to eight glasses of water is needed to keep the body performing at optimal levels. A 20 percent loss of fluid from the body is usually fatal.
  • Temperature can affect appetite. A cold person is more likely to eat more food.
  • A person will usually swallow around 250 times during dinner.
  • Americans collectively consume approximately 900 billion calories each day
  • Insects such as termites and ants provide 10 percent of the protein consumed worldwide. Where insects are an integral part of a diet, they contribute as much as 40 percent of protein. (Don’t worry though, bugs are NOT on any of our menus.)
  • A person will eat an average of 35 tons of food in his or her lifetime or 1,500 pounds of food a year

Breakfast in the Classroom served FREE!

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Feb. 5, 2014

In January, the Tukwila School District joined a handful of other schools across the nation in piloting a program to get all kids to eat the most important meal of the day—breakfast. Called Breakfast in the Classroom, what’s revolutionary about this new model is that every student gets a nutritious meal each day during the first 10 minutes of class.

The research is clear: Studies have shown that kids who eat breakfast before learning are much more alert, behave better, and actually get better test scores. Early data shows that breakfast-eating students miss less school, show up on time, and make fewer trips to the nurse’s office for empty/upset stomachs or headaches during the day.

It’s clear, then, why we need to make breakfast a priority for all students. The problem with our typical school breakfast program is that most eligible students do not take advantage of it. Families must qualify based on their income, sign up, and have students show up 30 minutes early to school to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. Beyond the logistical challenges, impoverished students face a stigma from being singled out. With Breakfast in the Classroom, those obstacles are removed. All students get breakfast, simply by showing up for class.

One of the best parts? Breakfasts are being provided at no charge to the family and we expect the program to be almost cost neutral to the district. Because of our demographics, the scale of feeding all students free is not significantly greater than feeding only those who qualify for free/reduced breakfast. The federal government reimburses us for every meal served to an income-eligible student; we will now be able to get our maximum reimbursement because almost 100-percent of eligible students are participating.

Tukwila Elementary began piloting Breakfast in the Classroom in January. Based on that success, we just launched the program at Thorndyke Elementary, and we plan to start the new school year with Breakfast in the Classroom at Cascade View. Then we will look at options for making breakfast universally available at our secondary schools.

Before Breakfast in the Classroom, Tukwila Elementary served about 120 meals each morning—that encompasses only about 30 percent of students eligible for breakfast services. Now, the school serves more than 500 breakfasts daily. The meals include cold items like milk and fruit as well as hot items like whole-grain rolls and breakfast sandwiches.

Principal Steve Salisbury said his initial concern—and that of his staff—was that Breakfast in the Classroom might take up too much valuable class time. In practice, they have found that the teacher is still able to do all of the same beginning-of-the-day activities (taking attendance, homework check, announcements …) so “the impact on actual teaching time is negligible, and we have found that the benefits of serving breakfast to four times as many of our students offsets any minimal loss of teaching time,” Salisbury said.

Sounds like a win-win!

To learn more Breakfast in the Classroom benefits and implementation, go to

Rise, shine, and learn with school breakfast!

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Jan. 5, 2014

We understand that your busy schedule might make it difficult to provide a healthy breakfast every morning, so let the Tukwila School District help! Every day, our school cafeterias begin serving a complete meal—with milk, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains—30 minutes before classes start. We not only meet very high nutrition guidelines but the even more exacting kid taste-test standards!

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that is especially true in schools. After going the entire night without food, students’ bodies need a source of energy to fuel their brains for a productive day of learning. In fact, research shows that children who start their day with a school-served breakfast have higher test scores, improved grades, reduced hyper activity, less irritability and fatigue, fewer behavioral problems, and decreased absence and tardy rates compared with children who rarely ate breakfast.

That’s why one of our primary goals is to find creative ways to get more of our students to start their morning with a healthy breakfast. The district’s Food Services Department strives to be a great value and convenience for busy families. With the closing of the Tukwila Trading Company last month, it has become even harder for some of our families to find an appropriate grocer within walking distance to provide a supply of fresh and nutritious food at home. Luckily, we have breakfast covered for you!

(Please note: until the SAARS Marketplace opens in the now-empty Tukwila Trading Company space, the closest alternative within walking distance in that neighborhood to buy fresh groceries is Sea-Tac Market, 15221 International Blvd. S. There is a selection of produce, grains, and proteins, and food stamps are welcome.)

Here are a few fun facts from the American Cereal Council to perk up your breakfast taste buds:

  • Cereal was invented when colonial housewives started serving up popcorn with sugar and cream for breakfast. Yum!
  • Of the more than 294 million people in the U.S, 49 percent start their day with a bowl of cereal.
  • Astronauts from Apollo 11 boosted their brain power while in space with a cereal breakfast. The cereal was mixed with fruit and pressed into cubes since the lack of gravity kept the astronauts from pouring it into a bowl with milk.
  • There are 2.7 billion packages of cereal sold every year – that’s enough boxes to wrap around the Earth thirteen times.

Now who’s ready for breakfast? Send your kids our way every morning, 30 minutes before class time, for a great start to the academic day!

After-school Supper Starts at the Tukwila School District

By Craig Huckins, Tukwila School District Food Service Director
Dec. 5, 2013

The effort by the Tukwila School District to help curb hunger in our community and to provide free, healthy and nutritious foods to as many of its students possible took another big step forward earlier this month with the introduction of a new and improved version of its after-school snack program to be served at all schools across the district.

These new “Super Snacks” are served up every day to students enrolled in one of the many after-school programs provided by the Tukwila School District and feature full servings of locally grown fruits and vegetables that many kids may not consistently get at home. They also include a serving of protein, grain and milk.

New Superintendent Nancy Coogan stated, “The Super Snack is an expansion of the after-school snack program that we previously offered where all students are afforded additional, balanced snacks. It is imperative that we provide these offerings since many of our students remain after school engaged in academic and enrichment opportunities. I commend our food service department and their work getting this program up and running as it potentially serves all. Bottom line…food for all!”

The meals are designed to not only feed hungry students but also to introduce them to proper nutrition and to help their hungry stomachs get through that period between lunch and dinner—the time where many kids reach for the most convenient high-calorie junk foods they can find, like chips, candy, fast foods and sugar loaded sodas and artificial juices. The program is paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reimburses school districts about $3 for every meal given to a student. It’s part of a much larger federal children’s food program expanded by congressional Democrats with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The federal program is permanent and requires the meals include one serving each of milk, grains, meat or “meat alternates,” and two servings of fruit and vegetables.

Notice to Parents and Guardians of our Elementary Students

The purpose of this notice is to remind you of a significant change in the operation of our elementary school lunch program that took place during the ’08-’09 school year which has continued through today’s date. Beginning that year, the Food Service Department stopped providing traditional hot lunches to students with negative balances in their accounts. Students who carry a negative balance in their accounts are now provided a substitute or emergency meal consisting of a jelly or cheese sandwich, milk and any items from the fresh fruit and salad bar, until the account is replenished.

The Food Service Department had been feeding students regardless of their account balances for several years. The practice created unforeseen problems which we could not allow to continue. At that time, the lunch program at the elementary schools was carrying a $15,000 deficit, which was unacceptable. We also believed the practice had caused us to under-report the number of eligible aid students to state and federal agencies and under-reporting eligible free and reduced numbers impacts the amount of annual revenue we receive locally.

After several meetings with the Board of Directors and the administration, the new method of ensuring that proper payment is received was implemented at the start of the 08-09 school year. We hope this will insure eligible families submit applications, and that students with insufficient balances will be motivated to bring the proper payment.

As always, we will try to work with families who are experience hardship and if you are unable to meet the costs of Type A meals (breakfast $1.50, lunch $2.50), please take the time to fill out a lunch form located in the main office of any of the schools in the Tukwila School District. I strongly encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


Craig Huckins
Foodservice Manager
Tukwila School District
(206) 901-7823

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