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Washington County Public Schools cafeteria workers prepare for school

About 12,500 lunches and about 6,500 breakfasts are served to 22,000 public school students per day

August 21, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Anita Heefner, satellite leader at Bester Elementary School, rolls a cart full of breakfast meals into cooler Tuesday at the school.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

With the first day of school looming, cafeteria workers at some Washington County Public Schools were making preparations Tuesday to serve breakfast and lunch Wednesday.

“The workers do a tremendous job getting ready every day,” said Jeff Proulx, supervisor of food and nutrition services for Washington County Public Schools. “They make sure the food is prepared, put to the right temperatures and served every day.”

On the menu for the first day of school are chicken tenders or turkey and dumplings, according to an emailed release from Proulx.

The school system is planning for 19,125 individual chicken tenders for 6,375 servings, about 400 pounds of roasted turkey as part of 2,125 servings of turkey and dumplings, and 18,200 milks between breakfast and lunch, approximately 70 percent of which is chocolate, while the rest is white.

About 12,500 lunches and about 6,500 breakfasts are served to the approximately 22,000 students in the Washington County public school system per day, Proulx said.

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In some cases, the food is made and prepared at one school and distributed to multiple other schools.

Meals prepared at Smithsburg High School are provided for students in five schools in the area, including the high school, according to Rebecca Anderson, food service manager at Smithsburg High School. The food is cooked and prepared each morning, and at 9 a.m., it is taken to Smithsburg and Old Forge elementary schools; at 9:15 a.m., some of it is taken to Smithsburg Middle School; and at 9:30 a.m., it is taken to Cascade Elementary School.

Anderson said the days tend to run smoothly.

“The only times problems arise are with equipment and when you’re at a lack of people,” she said. “We try to provide the kids with the ultimate best of whatever they’re serving.”

Martha Metcalf, a lunch worker at Smithsburg High School, has to take lunches over to Smithsburg Middle School. She said it is important to keep some of the food, which is served at about 11:30 a.m., warm.

“It’s a little hectic, but we manage to get through pretty good,” she said. “You make sure you start out with a good product.”

On Tuesday, Anderson was checking the equipment, having some of the cafeteria workers study the menus, and letting some of the meat thaw for the next day, as well as putting some of the food in pans.

“It’s just getting back into the gist of things,” she said in regard to preparing for the first day of school.

Another twist in preparations for the 2012-13 school year is that the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 goes into effect. Signed into law by President Obama, the legislation states that students, who were previously able to deny two of the five components of a typical lunch meal every day, cannot deny a fruit or vegetable, Proulx said.

“We’re dealing with a new meal pattern that we’ve never had to serve before,” Proulx said. “The students can still deny two of the five components under the new pattern, but there has to be a fruit or vegetable on their tray.”

With about $10 million in revenue for food and nutrition services, about $4.4 million is expected to be spent on food, $5.2 million is expected to be spent on labor and benefits, and the other $400,000 is expected to be spread out over other costs related to the program.

Also, nearly $2 million is expected to be generated in student payments for breakfasts and lunches, while more than 10,000 students in the school system are expected to be in the program for free or reduced-price meals, Proulx said.

At Bester Elementary School, where more than 88 percent of the 339 students for the 2011-12 school year got meals for free or at a reduced price, cafeteria workers were packing breakfasts into coolers for each class Tuesday in preparation for the first day.

Anita Heefner, satellite leader at the school, said the food is ordered a week at a time but cooked the day it is served.

“We cook it fresh every day,” she said. “It’s just like cooking for your family, except you’re doing it for 400 kids.”

According to Heefner, the breakfast bags included cereal, juice and an entree. Milk was packed with them.
Bester Elementary School Food Service Assistant Teresa Smith said breakfast will be prepared for the kids the day before it is served throughout the year, while lunches will be cooked the day they’re served. She said preparing for the first day of school can be “busy.”

“The first day, a lot of kids change their mind on the menu,” she said. “We’ll prepare so much of one type of food, and then when they come through the lunch line, they like to change their mind.”

The cafeteria workers at Bester were scheduled to work from 8 to 10 a.m. Tuesday preparing lunches.

After Wednesday, baked ziti or mandarin orange chicken salad will be prepared for Thursday, and mozzarella cheese sticks and ham subs will be prepared for Friday, according to the email from Proulx.

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