Kona Pacific Public Charter School

Kealakekua, Hawaii

Kona Pacific Public Charter School

Kona Pacific Public Charter School serves children from families spread over the long, sparsely populated western coast of Hawaii Island. Like all schools that participate in federal school meal programs, Kona Pacific must keep detailed records of food sales and students’ eligibility for free or reduced-price meals. However, outdated systems for these tasks were adding significantly to children’s wait times for meals and to the food service department’s administrative costs. Fortunately, with a U.S. Department of Agriculture kitchen equipment grant, the school was able to purchase a new, highly efficient point-of-sale (POS) system that has reduced the time kids spend in line and dramatically cut the staff’s paperwork burden.

The new system assigns each student a unique bar code that is integrated into his or her school ID card. “The kids love the very grown-up-looking IDs, and using them entirely masks which students get a free or reduced-price meal, eliminating any risk of stigma,” said Chris Hecht, the school’s executive director. “And because the line moves quickly, with each student waiting an average of five minutes, the meal program has become an attractive option for more of our students.”

Shiloh Wright, the school’s office manager, estimated that the POS system frees up at least 20 hours a month that previously were dedicated to counting meals and submitting claims. “We used to need about 40 days to prepare our reimbursement claims for USDA. Now we can submit them on the second or third day after the month ends and do so more accurately than before.”

Healthy school food

Other departments at the school are benefiting from the system, too. “We are able to use it for attendance, uniform and other office sales, and parent fees,” said Wright. “It’s been a huge labor savings, and it gives our staff the time to focus on other aspects of the students’ educational needs.”

Kona Pacific has used some of the freed staff time to expand its nutrition services, launching Hawaii’s first summer meal program. In 2014, the school provided 4,300 meals to children who might otherwise go hungry during the summer. It is one more way that Kona Pacific makes good nutrition a core component of students’ lives year-round.

issue brief
A tilting skillet, bought with grant money from the USDA
A tilting skillet, bought with grant money from the USDA
Issue Brief

USDA’s School Kitchen Grants Benefit Meal Programs and Students

The right equipment makes a difference in efficient...

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Issue Brief

USDA’s School Kitchen Grants Benefit Meal Programs and Students

The National School Lunch Program is turning 70 in 2016, and kitchens in many of the more than 95,000 schools that participate in the program are nearly as old. Aging infrastructure and equipment, much of it designed to heat or handle pre-packaged rather than fresh foods, pose significant barriers to school districts’ efforts to adapt to the preferences and dietary needs of today’s students.

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Salad bar at school
Salad bar at school
Article

School Nutrition Gets a Boost From USDA Kitchen Equipment Grants

School Nutrition Gets a Boost From USDA Kitchen Equipment Grants

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Quick View
Article

The National School Lunch Program is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and many of the kitchens in participating schools are nearly as old. U.S. Department of Agriculture kitchen equipment grants have helped schools update their facilities and infrastructure, allowing them to serve healthier foods and improve meal programs for students.

Learn More