Jeff Chounard has joined the Anoka-Hennepin School District 11 Child Nutrition Program (CNP) as a chef supervisor.
Based at the Educational Service Center, Chounard will be helping CNP site supervisors meet the new federal guidelines for nutrition funded by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
A native of Albertville, Chounard has deep ties to the Anoka area. His father graduated from Anoka High School and the family was in the restaurant business for many years, including Chounard’s Lighthouse on Highway 10.
His family history had an influence on Chounard and after years of working in seasonal jobs that included layoffs, he decided to go to what is now Hennepin Technical College to study to be a chef.
“Before I went to school I hadn’t even worked as a dishwasher,” Chounard said. “I found out quickly that a lot of students dropped out of the program. That gave me determination that I wouldn’t drop out, I would finish the program. And it’s a career I’ve enjoyed; it’s been fun.”
After graduating, Chounard worked in business dining. For the past nine years, Chounard had been the executive chef at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
“I loved the students at St. John’s; they are always a breath of fresh air,” he said. “In the summer, our staff would work with grade school students to seniors attending camps on the campus.
“Come August, everyone looked forward to the college students coming back. We really enjoyed working with the students.”
A friend of Chounard told him about the chef supervisor position with Anoka-Hennepin. Because Chounard heard that students didn’t like the changes to school lunches required by the federal government and that some schools were contracting with local chefs to help them with the changes, he decided to apply.
“After the first interview I was very interested; after the second I was intrigued,” Chounard said.
“The second interview included supervisors from middle and high schools. They had a great list of questions and I got a perspective of what they were looking for. I knew I wanted to come to Anoka-Hennepin to be an asset to the child nutrition program.”
In his first weeks on the job, Chounard is meeting with site supervisors, seeing how things flow in cafeterias and getting a broader view of what is needed. Overall Chounard will work with staff to develop food students will enjoy.
“The changes to the dietary guidelines were not only a big change to students, but to the staff as well,” Chounard said. “My job is to take food and make it attractive to students. There is a challenge here and hopefully my years of experience will help with that.
“We want students to be happier with where we are and where we are going.”
Reductions to sodium in school food are set to take place in 2014.
Chounard hopes the healthy eating habits students are learning at school, including eating unlimited fruits and vegetables, will carry over into their home lives and influence parents shopping for family meals, he said.
Chounard is glad to be in his new position.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with well wishes,” he said. “People at Anoka-Hennepin are so nice and friendly. I am looking forward to working with all the school supervisors on product development to help students adjust to the new nutrition standards.”