Student hunger is foe of Portland's new school food service director

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PORTLAND — Jane McLucas, the new food service director for Portland Public Schools, said she’s excited about the challenge that comes with the job.

McLucas was introduced by interim Superintendent  Jeanne Crocker at the Nov. 3 School Board meeting. She previously served as the food service director for the Norwood Public School system in Norwood, Massachusetts.

McLucas said that district is about half the size of Portland, which has roughly 7,000 students in kindergarten through high school.

“So everything has doubled for me,” McLucas said.

McLucas said it was the job opportunity that drove her to Portland in June, when the process to take the position began, but Maine “seemed like a good fit.” Before her tenure in Norwood, McLucas worked in the food service industry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University, as well as a catering company in Milford, Massachusetts.

“I was looking for a challenge, and I certainly found it,” she said.

McLucas replaces Ron Adams, who served as food service director since 2008. He left the district to work in the private sector this summer. McLucas said Adams did a great job, and said she is in a place where she can “take (the program) and grow it.”

McLucas said her immediate attention will be on the menu and the meals students are getting each day. She said she and her staff will definitely keep an active local food program, which Adams worked to increase while he was with the district. But McLucas said she needs to visit the city’s schools before deciding what her own goals will be going forward.

“My focus needs to be on the meals we’re serving,” she said.

McLucas said she is hoping to visit all city public schools, including Peak’s Island Elementary School, before Christmas. She said she will meet students, teachers and parents, so she can bring food to the students that “they’ll want to eat and choose to eat” and make food “part of the learning experience.”

“A hungry child can’t learn,” McLucas said.

She said she enjoys working with food service in schools, because “it makes a difference to kids everyday.”

McLucas said her first week as food service director went smoothly, and credited the staff with helping her get acclimated. She said she is looking forward to meeting the students “and finding out what they like.”

“I’m really excited to be here, and I welcome feedback from the community,” she said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Jane McLucas was recently named food service director for Portland Public Schools.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or