From the line: Dishing up successful meal strategies

A four-part conversation with school nutrition dynamo, April Liles of Waltham Public Schools


Eggs In Schools caught up with April Liles, R.D., S.N.S., after the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar and asked her to share some of the ways she brings creativity and a spirit of fun to meal service in the Waltham Public Schools in Waltham, Mass., where she directs the nutrition program for 5,800 K-12 students. The district (#Gohawks!) includes nine schools plus a new, K-1 dual-language school, each with a full-service kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch. Average Daily Participation (ADP) for breakfast is 20 percent the ADP for lunch is 68 percent.

In this first installment of our Q&A Setting a Program Philosophy and Reaching Your Goals, April gives us the down low on her approach to managing a school nutrition program, while keeping all the stakeholders satisfied and motivated.


Eggs In Schools: First, can you share some insights, successes and challenges—your philosophy on feeding kids?

April: Our program’s philosophy is quite simple — Good Food + Happy People = Success

To achieve success, we want to make meals accessible and affordable to all students, while remaining financially self-sufficient.

Meanwhile, we keep in mind these ongoing program goals:

  • Strive to increase meals served to Waltham community.
  • Make meals fresh, healthy & nutritious.
  • Remain financially self-sufficient.
  • Grow together as a team.
  • Maintain a good attitude.
  • ALWAYS serve with a smile.
  • Tell our story.
  • Have fun.

Eggs In Schools: Since there’s no protein requirement at breakfast, why do you serve eggs? When you have eggs on the menu for breakfast, how does it affect ADP/meal sales?

April: The reality is…eggs are a known breakfast food here in the U.S. Students (and me!) look for eggs during the morning hours. When we menu eggs, it helps drive ADP and certainly tick UP meal sales. Typically, when eggs are incorporated into a recipe or menu, my customers are more likely to buy. Also, eggs are easy to cook and also easily customized or flavor-ized by adding any sort of herb, spice, vegetable or protein filler. Eggs can become bold in flavor and really be a standout entrée on your menu.


Eggs In Schools: What kind of eggs/egg products do you use in your kitchens? Why? How?

April: Eggs are a menu planner’s DREAM come true. First and foremost, eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. Eggs consist of high-quality protein, they are nutrient rich and they do a great job at making you feel fuller…longer. ALSO – eggs are versatile, portable, affordable and here’s the thing – KIDS REALLY LIKE EGGS!  They are familiar with eggs, as they are a staple at home. We use them all over menus, for both breakfast and lunch meals. We use scrambled eggs, patties, hard-boiled eggs and omelets in all sort of ways. Brunch for Lunch, Bowls, Bars, Grab-N-Go’s. Eggs really do make sense to rotate in on your menus.


Eggs In Schools: What strategies do you use when putting eggs on the menu?

April: Well, every menu planner’s strategies and priorities are different went it comes to recipe development. One of my old college professors used to start each class by telling us, “Everything in foodservice starts with the menu.” This is ALWAYS true. From the food – to the labor – to the equipment – and then the level of acceptability — it all starts with a solid menu. Because eggs are so versatile, well-liked and affordable – my strategy is to use them as much as possible – in as many ways as possible to create a well-balanced kid-friendly menu.


Eggs In Schools: What’s the most popular way to serve eggs at your school?

April: Good old scrambled eggs, hands down. We use the USDA Foods liquid eggs and fresh eggs from our produce vendor mostly.


Eggs In Schools: Do different age kids have different egg preferences?

April: I don’t see that here in Waltham. All egg forms are well liked at most grade levels.


Watch for the next installment of the Q&A for more thoughts on why students and staff give rave reviews to the Waltham Public Schools nutrition program and how eggs contribute to its success.

Next up: How Breakfast Bowls Boost ADP

To listen to the SNA “Protein Power” Webinar, which is the inspiration for this Q&A, GO! 


2018-03-05 16:41:36