Ohio school district earns funds for serving lines

Just before Christmas, Oak Hills School District in Cincinnati was awarded a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade equipment at an elementary school.

“It was like an early Christmas present,” says District Foodservice Supervisor Linda Eichenberger.

Oak Hills will use the $40,000 National School Lunch Program Equipment Assistance Grant to install a new serving line at Delshire Elementary School. It will be a self-serve line with three hot wells and four cold wells, and will increase the variety of fruits and vegetables that can be offered to students. The current serving line—which is more than 40 years old—has only three hot wells for vegetables.

Eichenberger visited other schools that have self-serve lines and believes that the new line could expedite lunch service, becaue students will have two lines to use instead of one. Currently, it takes about three minutes for each student to receive lunch with the current serving line, in which students stand single-file and tell foodservice staff which entrée and vegetables they would like.

In the new set-up, Eichenberger says, staff will still serve students a hot entrée. But students will be able to choose their own vegetables, fruit and a drink and move to the register. She is excited about the possibility of offering raw fruits and vegetables such as strawberries or broccoli on the new self-serve line.

“For the first time, our customers will be able to get what they want. I hope they take a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that maybe they haven’t tried before,” she says.

Another aspect that Eichenberger likes about the new service line is that it will be lower to the ground, which will better accommodate younger students at Delshire, a K-5 school.

She plans to take a cue from other districts by showing students instructional videos on how to move through the new service line efficiently.

The district will replace the service line this spring. Eichenberger says that spring break, which is in early April, would be an ideal time for the replacement. However, the project’s designer says that the renovation could be done in one weekend, if needed.

The grant is the largest that Eichenberger has received for her district thus far. It’s likely to cover the entire cost of the replacement. However, if the project does cost more than expected, the foodservice budget will be able to cover the difference.  “If it’s a little more elaborate than I thought, foodservice has the funds to pick it up,” she says. “No matter what, we are going to make this work.”  

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