A Lot Of Work Goes On Behind The Lunchroom Scene

Published 11:36 am Thursday, October 9, 2014

PRINCE EDWARD — Prince Edward County Public School cafeteria operation is, factoring federal funding and meal sales and some catering, independent of school operations. No local funding goes into the day-to-day costs—they have to at least break even. They fund upgrades in equipment (having just purchased a new hood system for the elementary cafeteria), pay for the food they serve as well as the salaries of the workers.

It is quite an undertaking just handling the meal part of the equation alone. Locally, The Bakery provides most of the fresh bread daily for all three schools, arriving each morning of school before 8 a.m. Milk and juice are also delivered on a daily basis.

And there’s a lot of it, too. A typical milk and juice bill runs over $300 per day—still a bargain considering the sheer volume. Just in milk alone, it’s 250 cartons of one percent milk and 550 in the more popular skim chocolate milk a day. Add that to some 550 juice units per morning, and it’s quite a daily delivery.

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Chicken nuggets remain one of the most popular items offered. At the elementary school alone, they go through between four and five cases a day when it’s offered. There’s 125 servings a case.

French fries?

The elementary school children are served some 120 pounds a day when its part of the meal. That’s over 300 pounds including all three schools.

Broccoli is one of their more popular vegetables; the elementary school goes through about 48 pounds a day when it’s offered on the menu—plus another 36 at the middle and 24 more pounds at the high school.

Broccoli is one of the many vegetables they like to buy local, though some are still canned including corn and green beans.

Prince Edward is a member of a co-op that includes 20 schools. As a group, they collectively go to bid for food purchases. The more schools that participate, the lower per unit cost.

All three Prince Edward County schools operate on a rotating three-week cycle of menus, which will stay that way for two months and then change. Parents know in advance, it helps food service with production—they can know exactly what they need.

“One thing a lot of parents don’t understand: our meal is $2.10 for a full-price student,” Food Service Director Bruce Davis defends. “You can’t purchase a lunch anywhere for $2.10 and get what we give.”

At that price, he points out, you get an entree, take two vegetables, two fruits and a milk.

“…You can’t get that anywhere,” Davis said.

The school also participates in a backpack program, coordinating with FACES, where packages of food are sent home to children of need, and the federal fresh fruits program that introduces every student pre-k through grade four with a fresh fruit snack daily. There’s also an after school snack program for those participating in the tutoring and after school programs. All pre-K students eat breakfast at no cost.

Seventy percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunches in the elementary school, though the participation runs only at about 70-75 percent of those deemed eligible. The percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches runs at about 66 percent at the middle school with participation running about 70 percent. At the high school, 50 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches (though not all apply) with about 40 percent participation.