The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 18, 2005

Features

Dennis Dockman — Carlisle School's new Food Service Manager

After working in the Stoneham and Winthrop Schools, Dennis Dockman joined the Carlisle School as the Food Service Manager in September. "This place is paradise compared to the places I have been," said Dockman, who replaced retired Food Service Manager Joyce Lagadinos. He has been in the food service industry for more than 15 years, he explained, and has worked at a variety of places such as schools, McDonalds, a bakery, and Boston Market, all in management positions. "It's unusual for me to take something small like this," he said.

Dockman lives in Dracut and has two children, ages nine and twelve. He felt he needed a less stressful job in order to focus on his family. The job is easier than his past positions, he said, more manageable, and much less stressful. He has a "super staff" of six, and has relied on their experience to help him get familiar with the school.

New food offerings

One of the biggest changes he has made is "plated salads," which are large mixed salads such as chicken Caesar salad. "They have been a huge success, made a big impact," he said. The majority of students buying the salads are older, but "occasionally they are bought by third graders." Teachers also purchase the salads, he said, "sometimes e-mailing their order in the morning to be sure the salads don't run out." He also offers whole pizzas to the staff at "fair or better price" than the take-out restaurants, which they sometimes purchase to share with other staff members. "My pizza is excellent," he said.

Food choices

Carlisle's new Food Service Manager Dennis Dockman stands behind the prepackaged salads. (Photo by Cynthia Sorn)
Every day a hot lunch is offered. In addition, students and staff can choose pizza, salads, bagel lunch with yogurt and veggie sticks, or custom-made sandwiches such as ham, Italian, or turkey, with lettuce and tomato. "I eventually want to make hot sandwiches," he said. Some students come back for seconds, using another lunch ticket. "I've seen some kids come back for thirds." Veggie sticks are offered frequently as well as lettuce and tomatoes.

Health and allergies

All the soups and sauces are homemade by Dockman. "I love to cook and have been cooking for a long time," he explained. He will use only fresh or frozen vegetables and won't use canned vegetables, because he doesn't like them. "If it is something I can't eat, I'm not going to serve it," he said. "I make my own spaghetti sauce. I do the majority of the cooking."

The staff takes food allergies seriously, he explained. The school nurse gives the staff a list of students who have allergies, and all staff members become familiar with those students. There is a peanut-free table where no nut products are allowed, and when the staff makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they are made in a separate area. "Employees care a lot" about the students, he said, and they take responsibility for kids with allergies. "Communication is the key factor."

Snacks will be introduced

Students can purchase water and juice, and the meals come with milk, he explained. Eventually snack foods will be offered three days a week. "They [the snacks] have to be off the approved "A List." The "A List" of snack food was compiled by Framingham State College's John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (JSI), which assessed and compared snack foods against the "Massachusetts a La Carte Food & Beverage Standards." Foods that meet the nutritional standards are put on the "A (for Acceptable) List." The list can be viewed on: www.johnstalkerinstitute.org/vending project/healthysnacks.htm. Snacks will be offered after all students have been through the meal line. "All foods must be under certain fat limits, no trans fats," Dockman explained. Only five or six items will be offered at a time.

The facility

Dockman feels the kitchen facility is appropriate for the size of the school. He would like to "modernize" the equipment, adding a steamer to reheat food instead of using an oven, which dries out food. He is examining the way students line up to purchase their food. "The method of two lines is important" to move the students along, he said, but he is not certain it is the right way to serve. One of the challenges he faces is increasing fuel costs. Delivery charges go up as fuel charges go up, which raises food prices.

Future plans

Perhaps in the future the kitchen could offer food for parties, he said. New federal food standards are coming in July, 2006, so he is planning to have a "nutritional committee" of parents, health teachers, and community members to help with the transition to the new standards. In two or three years he would like to see the kitchen well equipped without "hitting the budget." He would eventually like to introduce a new pay-in-advance system, allowing parents to deposit funds into a credit account, which would be used as students purchased meals. This would eliminate the need for lunch tickets or cash. "A lot of schools do this," he explained. Would he like to own his own restaurant someday? "Yes and no," he said. "I don't want too much stress. My kids are young and need me now."

Settled in

Dockman says he is very comfortable and feels very good about the school and the staff. "I'm just a coach who manages a team," he said. He would like to hear from parents. "I've heard from six or seven parents and all comments have been good." He can be reached at ddockman@carlisle.mec.edu.


2005 The Carlisle Mosquito