BERRYVILLE — Clarke County High School (CCHS) recently placed in the top 20% of schools that participated in a nationwide competition to promote healthy eating.

The Sodexo Healthy High School Challenge was designed to help students realize the importance of eating healthy foods daily. Participating schools earned points for each well-balanced meal, healthy snack and healthy beverage purchased by students, according to a company Facebook posting about the competition.

Among 224 high schools whose cafeterias are operated by Sodexo, CCHS placed 37th in the contest, the Clarke County School Board learned this week.

Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Bishop said CCHS’ student government will receive $500 from Sodexo to spend on school-based activities.

A food service report presented to the board included a photo showing a tray containing three chicken strips, macaroni and cheese, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, a peach and a small carton of strawberry fat-free milk.

“This is (an example of) a balanced plate, and the kids love seeing variety in our fruits and veggies when they are in season,” Nickole Kinsey, the school division’s general manager of food services, wrote in the report.

Kinsey, a Sodexo employee, also mentioned in the report that CCHS and Johnson-Williams Middle School are now serving the most breakfasts since the company began operating the county’s school cafeterias.

Both schools serve regular breakfasts to about 20-25 students each morning. However, during snack breaks or “second chance breakfasts” later each morning, the high school’s cafeteria usually serves roughly another 100 students and the middle school’s cafeteria services approximately 80 more, according to Bishop.

“Breakfast has been linked to positive academic and behavioral outcomes in school,” he said, explaining why it’s important for students to eat a morning meal.

Since the start of the current fiscal year on July 1, the Clarke County schools’ food service program has collected $231,731.43 in revenues, but it has had expenses totaling $236,919.43.

The $5,188 shortfall stems from some federal grant money being spent sooner this fiscal year, Bishop said. Some anticipated cost savings, plus extra revenue to be received because of the schools having a slightly higher number of students this academic year, should cover the shortfall, he added.

In another matter, the School Board last week heard from Clarke County Education Association President Pam Thompson, who briefly discussed employee salaries.

Thompson, a kindergarten teacher at Boyce Elementary School, acknowledged constraints that small, rural school divisions have in paying employees. She thanked the board for its efforts to bring salaries closer to those paid by the Winchester and Frederick County divisions. She also said she realizes that the Clarke school division probably never will be able to pay its employees as much as school personnel “over the mountain” in affluent Loudoun County earn.

Still, Thompson encouraged the board to examine salaries on the higher end of Clarke’s pay scale. She indicated that some slight increases could keep longtime employees from retiring from the division and then going to work in schools elsewhere to supplement their incomes.

Also at the meeting, the board approved Grafton Integrated Health Network participating in the school division’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) through June 2021.

Its participation will help meet needs of students and their families, officials said.

Different Grafton employees may attend different SEAC meetings, Bishop said. Yet the firm will have only one vote among the committee, he said.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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