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Harrison takes charge of school meals

The Oak Harbor School District has hired its second-ever food service director.

Ken Harrison was recently named to the position previously held by David Connors, who is heading to Skagit County to take a similar position with the Mount Vernon School District.

Harrison, who has lived in Oak Harbor since 1979, takes over the department on Feb. 7. For him, it’s a chance to work with two things he enjoys.

“This is where my joy is — working with food and working with kids. It’s a rare opportunity to do both,” he said. He is also looking forward to working with the current staff.

The big challenge with the job is to continue finding items that youngsters will enjoy but that meet health and nutrition guidelines.

“Sometimes that balancing is challenging,” Harrison said.

Prior to working for the school district, Harrison worked as an account executive for Food Services of America. He worked with 15 school districts to provide guidance about nutritional selections. Prior to that, he worked for Mitzel’s American Kitchen. He has three children attending Oak Harbor schools and his wife is a teacher.

The school district serves 3,000 lunches each day and 600 breakfasts.

Approximately 64 percent of elementary school students eat a hot lunch. Numbers at the secondary schools fluctuate between 50 percent and 60 percent, according to the 2006-2007 school district annual food service report. The report states the breakfast numbers have been growing. The increase stems from recent legislation that provided reimbursement for the 30-cent cost of a reduced-price breakfast. That caused a 63 percent jump in the number of students receiving reduced-price meals eating breakfast.

Harrison is looking forward to the remodel of Oak Harbor High School, which means a new kitchen for workers to stir up edible magic.

He officially begins his position Thursday. In the meantime, he’s been familiarizing himself with the operation that started after voters approved a levy in 2001 that funded the food program’s creation.

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