Behind the Scenes of WHS Lunches .


Nylah Lloyd, Writer

Ever thought of the behind the scenes of Waterford’s school lunch? Where did the ingredients come from? Who prepared this?  Is what I’m eating actually nutritious? 

Dianne Houlihan is Waterford’s Director of School Dining and Nutrition services. Houlihan creates meal plans and aspires to make efficient food choices for Waterford High School’s community. She spends hours every day trying to make the lunches high quality meals. Houlihan believes that food is an art and should be taken seriously, especially while feeding young adults. “At the high school they are more willing to try things,”  Houlihan believes the high school is the place where she can expand taste buds. Houlihan majored in Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales University and had her own restaurant in New London, Connecticut. Her restaurant was a success, but she fell ill. She found herself not being able to take care of herself while trying to run a restaurant, so she had  no other choice but to sell the restaurant. Once she recovered, she had an opportunity to be a cook at a school, which was perfect for her and her two children’s schedules at the time. She began working at Great Neck Elementary School as a lunch aide. She worked there for 20 years before applying at Town Hall for the director position, in spite of not expecting to get the job, she was hired to run dining and nutrition for the district . Covid has affected her plans for the future, due to rules and safety regulations. There is a limited amount of food that you’re able to purchase. There are bidding systems, and Houlihan sits down with multiple vendors to sample new possible products to guarantee nutritious, “purified” ingredients to make our lunches as fresh and sustainable as possible. She also goes to food shows twice a year to bring in new ideas to our Lancer community. Despite our foods already being Connecticut produced, she wants to introduce locally sourced farm ingredients and make our meals pesticide-free and maybe even introduce  vegetarian and vegan items, but the regulations require non-locally sourced farms and mandatory five meal components, which are meat/meat alternate, grain, fruit, vegetable, and milk. Houlihan and her team at SNA, School Nutrition Association, rallied and worked with the government to get free food services over the course of this worldwide pandemic to help obliterate financial stress for families of students in Waterford, CT. Although we have a system for our lunches on a schedule, we also have special days where national food holidays are embraced and incorporated in that day’s lunch. Our most recent celebrated national food holiday was World School Milk Day on September 29 , 2021. Houlihan had stickers and a Tik Tok dance and hashtag to post on the school’s social media to get the kids engaged, including Gen-Z’s favorite app. She is open to new ideas and wants to put together a group of kids to help freshen the school’s menu. Remember a good meal can solve a fair number of problems.