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School District 192 food service earns 'Center for Excellence' designation

Farmington School District 192 food service director Peggy Anderberg is pretty pleased with her job these days.

Last week, the company she works for, Chartwells, presented her with an award that not every school district gets to receive - the Center for Excellence distinction.

The award isn't Anderberg's alone. It belongs to all of the food service employees throughout District 192, because it was their combined efforts that helped to make Farmington's food system as successful as it is.

Being named a Center for Excellence didn't happen overnight. It's the culmination of several years of cooperation and building partnerships, Anderberg said. ISD 192 hired Chartwells as its food service company about eight years ago, and some of the accomplishments within the school district date back as far. Farmington achieved its first Be-A-Star commendation in 2003, and earned distinction as the Central Account of the Year in 2006.

More awards and distinctions have followed. Many of those came while Chartwells was under the direction of Kari Doffing. Anderberg was the assistant director under Doffing, but she's now in her second year as director, so she's had a hand in many of the projects the local food service has implemented.

One of the most recent - and most notable - started earlier this year, when Farmington's food service partnered with Dick's Sanitation, Dakota County, and the Schools for Energy Efficiency Program to implement a recycling program for some of the district's lunch waste. That program has saved the district 17 percent in costs on the volume of waste coming out of the school lunch program.

Chartwells execs also noted the catering partnerships the local food service has implemented in recent years. In the past, the Farmington food service has catered the Top 10 percent Dinner for the high school seniors. They've also catered the Farmington Teachers' Association lunches in 2010 and 2011, and, most recently fed the community as part of the Patriotic Day celebration earlier this month.

Those are just a few of the things Chartwells looks for when determining Centers for Excellence, Anderberg said.

"Those are all part of the guidelines we have to meet with the Center for Excellence requirements," she said.

The local food service didn't necessarily start out trying to earn the distinction. Instead, Anderberg said, employees went about doing their jobs, and working with the school district to try to provide the best school lunches at the best prices possible. In order to meet budget requirements, they came up with programs like the recycling effort. They trimmed the amount of unused inventory and tracked how much extra food was prepared but unused, then trimmed that, too.

Pretty soon, the Chartwells company executives started to notice what was going on in Farmington. Apparently, they liked it, because Farmington was invited to apply for the Center for Excellence distinction. Of course, there were still a few areas that needed to be addressed, so the local food staff went about meeting those qualifications, too. That also meant the local folks had to fill out lots of paperwork, and eventually, Chartwells sent someone from the corporate offices to come and take a look at how things were run.

"When they saw the extra things we do, they came to us and said, 'you would be a great candidate for the program because you care so much for the product,'" Anderberg said.

Center for Excellence

As a Center for Excellence, Farmington now becomes an accredited training facility for Chartwells. That means if there is a school district looking for a new food service company, they can come to Farmington to see how things are run as a model for the company.

That also means that if there are schools that are in the company, but that don't do some of the programs, or if there are new employees who need to become familiar with the company's policies, they can come to Farmington and learn from the staff here.

"It's an honor. When you think about our employees and what they do here, they really do care about the student. They really do try to do their best, and they want to do it because that's what they're good at," Anderberg said.

In order to become a Center for Excellence, Farmington's food service had to meet more than 300 criteria in operational guidelines, standards and management training. The local Chartwells service serves more than 4,700 students in eight buildings every school day.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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