Pamela Mallory began with Montgomery ISD in June as the child nutrition director and spoke with Community Impact in late July about her new role. She replaces Lena Neugebauer, who is retiring in August after 25 years of service in MISD.

Mallory said her background includes seven years in food service as a cafeteria manager. She said she shifted careers to go into school nutrition, and she spent eight years at Klein ISD before moving over to MISD.

How do you decide what's on the menu at MISD campuses?

Our menus are based around the U.S. Department of Agriculture's national school lunch and breakfast program, and we have very specific guidelines that include ... calories, fat, sodium—and starting next year it's going to include added sugars. And so we follow those guidelines to make sure that we are meeting the nutrients standard of the meal. And then the menus are planned according to students' preferences, so students' favorite items are chicken nuggets so we make sure chicken nuggets are on the menu.

Why are you passionate about child nutrition?

I am passionate about child nutrition because as a student who grew up eating lunch every day at school, I want to make sure that I am taking care of the students who grew up like I did, where, you know, ... we all know if you're hungry you really can't learn. I'm sure you can probably understand that if it's getting close to lunch time and you're starting to get hungry, it makes it harder to pay attention and focus. So if I can make sure I take care of the meals so that students are able to eat, that means the rest of the school operates smoother because teachers can focus on teaching and not making sure their students are fed; principals can focus on scheduling and not making sure students are getting fed; so that's where my passion comes from.

What would readers be surprised to learn about that goes into meal planning?

How much paperwork is involved. Our staff actually has a lot of paperwork that they fill out. We have regulations that we follow from USDA and the Texas Department of Agriculture, and we also have health department standards and school standards and regulations that we are needing to meet. So there's a lot of paperwork involved in school nutrition. ... When I switched into school nutrition, that was the most surprising to me.

How do the demands of the child nutrition department change as the district grows?

It increases the number of operations we are performing and the volume of meals we are serving, as we have more schools and more students in our schools. ... A big thing that has changed this year is we are updating three of the kitchens. ... So the community has supported our growing and [helped us in improving our] kitchens to make sure we are able to efficiently serve our students. ... We are also hiring and looking to fill our kitchen with people who want to come out and ensure our students are able to learn.