She fills the position formerly held by Nutrition Director Dean Timmons. He announced his retirement for July 31, 2012 after about 34 years on the job.
As director, McBurnett leads, plans, develops, directs, implements and monitors school meal programs, including the fiscal accountability of the program and ensuring compliance with local, state and federal guidelines.
Polk’s School Nutrition Program daily provides 960,000 lunches and 430,000 breakfasts each school year. More than 90 employees in 10 cafeterias are part of this achievement.
The school district participates in United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Breakfast and Lunch Programs, which allows serving of 4,600 free and reduced priced meals daily to students.
McBurnett, a Berry College graduate, previously worked at Model High School as a Family Consumer Science Teacher and was an Associate Professor of Education at Georgia Highland College.
She said she has a passion for nutrition and was considering a career change when she learned of the job opening in Polk County.
“It was a perfect fit,” she said.
Since her first day, she has been busy and admits there is more to the job than most people realize.
Her arrival coincides with new meal pattern changes set by USDA. These will be implemented in January 2013.
School lunches will now include more fruits, vegetables and whole grain-rich foods. Only fat-free or low-fat milk and right size meals with portions designed for a child’s age and less saturated fat, trans fat and sodium will be served.
The changes in the school meals, the first in 15 years, are based on the latest nutritional guidelines.
The new school lunch will provide 1/3 of the average daily calorie needs for children by age.
Some highly active students, like athletes, may need more calories. Some schools may offer second helpings of fruits and vegetables. A second carton of milk may also be an option.
Schools can also operate after-school snack and supper programs. Students and/or sports teams can also bring food from home.
In practice, many students are being served the same amount of protein under the new standards.
“This year is one of transition as schools implement these new standards,” McBurnett said. “We will work with our managers, staff and other stakeholders to ensure that every child has access to healthy and nutritious meals.”
She is excited about the changes in the nutrition program and plans to streamline the process to be cost effective and more efficient.
A long-term goal is to do more cooking instead of taking items from a box.
“We understand it will be a slow process – out with the old and in with the new,” she said.
McBurnett also plans to offer classes in January to staff members who wish to take manager training. Throughout 2013, she also hopes to offer mini workshops on food safety and other segments of the nutrition program.
She is the daughter of Gary and Maxine Cochran of Rome and mother of Ben and Lauren.