Coupeville loves food and Superintendent Steve King is hoping to spread that to the school district’s students.
Many children across the country have horror stories of greasy processed foods coming out of school cafeterias, but students at Coupeville schools should soon be able to enjoy something more like a fine dining experience.
Christopher’s Restaurant owner and executive chef Andreas Wurzrainer has been hired to lead the charge in this dietary shift.
“We are extremely grateful that we have the opportunity to bring Andreas on board and provide this program for our students,” King said.
The new Connect Food program is aimed at going from “heat and serve” to from-scratch food service with as much local sourcing as possible, he said. As the director of the new program, Wurzrainer will be tasked with ordering the food, creating menus, training staff and cooking. Connect Food will officially launch next school year.
“My plan is to do a lot of cooking,” Wurzrainer said. “I’m a hands-on kind of guy.”
He has been cooking professionally for almost 35 years and running Christopher’s Restaurant for the last 17. His vision is to prioritize the quality of food options provided over quantity, while keeping costs controlled, he said. There won’t be any increase in costs to families and students, King said.
Wurzrainer will be stepping away from his work at the restaurant, he said, but isn’t sure yet what will happen there. His official start date with the school district is Aug. 1.
“This is too important and it would be far too challenging to try and do both well,” he said.
Wurzrainer’s school salary will be $70,000 a year.
King believes the district’s change of direction will align better with the community’s values. He said the local support for the district, number of local farmers and “people who think food matters” makes Central Whidbey the perfect place to make the program successful.
He said Wurzrainer’s connection to local farmers and vendors also ideally suits him to get the tomato rolling. He is also a firm believer that food matters.
The position’s ability to make a difference in children’s “nutrition future” and overall health was a big factor in his decision to apply, Wurzrainer said. He also wants to incorporate an educational aspect to it so students can learn more about where their food comes from and why things are the way they are.
King said participation in the school food program has been low, but he’s hoping the shift to higher quality food will help change that. The increased participation should help offset costs, which will also be paid for with levy funding and fundraising, he said.
King and Wurzrainer agree a healthy diet is linked to better physical and behavioral health.
“It’s our responsibility to take care of them,” Wurzrainer said, “and I want to take that responsibility seriously.”