Deanna Cooley hired as school food service director

Princeton’s new school food service director  is well aware that a large number of high school students at Princeton do not like that chocolate milk has been reduced from five days to one day per week this year.

Some parents have also questioned if their students, who burn calories in activities after school, are getting enough calories from the new lunch menus that came about because of new federal mandates.

Cooley, as a result of that feedback, is researching the up and downsides of going back to the amount of chocolate milk that was served before in school, and Cooley is also considering something more for those students who burn off calories after school.

Cooley is the replacement for longtime Princeton district food service director Teresa Danner, who resigned in August. Cooley began her job here on Oct. 1, which is at a time when the new federal school lunch nutrition regulations are taking effect. This is also the time of year when a lot of food service paperwork is due, said Cooley, whose longest term of employment was 15 years as a regional manager for Leeann Chin restaurants. She worked for Pizza Hut and some smaller restaurants before that in high school and college.

Cooley’s earliest years of life were in Milwaukee, before moving to Fairmont, where she graduated from high school. The fact that she had siblings in California and liked the idea of living in that state, motivated her to move to L.A. to attend St. Mary’s College, she said, where she received a degree in art with a minor in business. She had originally thought of going into advertising, thus the art degree, and then changed her mind after trying an advertising internship.

Her last job, before becoming food service director in Princeton, was a year working in an elementary school kitchen in Foley.

She and husband Ken have lived in Princeton eight years and have two daughters – Emily in the eighth grade and Rachel in fifth.

“I’m excited to start this job,” Cooley said, “and change the food service to a new direction and make the children excited about the school menu changes.”

The new rules don’t allow using bread as a filler, so now the filler will be fruits and vegetables, she said. But to do that at some of the school kitchens in the district, some equipment must be purchased, she noted.

Cooley added that although the new government regulations bring challenges, it is not exactly brand new for her. She explained that she is familiar with the rules since the Foley schools had adopted much of the new menu guidelines last school year.

Really, the main thing is more fruits and vegetables than in the past and even more than what has been in Princeton schools since the start of this school year, she said.

Cooley also has her eye on the kitchen facilities in some of the Princeton schools – namely the small size at the high school and the old setup at South Elementary.

Cooley adds that she comes to the job with no preconceptions about what should be done, as she has never been a food service director before.

But she does have a long-term goal of adding breakfast at the high school.