Texas district opens full-service bakery

Amarillo ISD will save $40,000 a year by baking in house.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

With the increased number of regulations on school meal programs, directors are increasingly trying to find ways to have more control over the ingredients in the items they serve.

At 33,000-student Amarillo Independent School District, in Texas, building a full-service bakery will enable the foodservice program to do just that—and save money, according to Brent Hoover, resident district manager with Chartwells at the district. “The money wasn’t the driver,” Hoover says of the reasoning behind the bakery project. “It was getting back to the baking every day and without adding any preservatives, basically going back to the tried-and-true recipes the USDA gave us.

“I’ve been in this industry for more than 25 years and back then we used to make rolls from scratch,” Hoover adds. “I always liked that. It gets the kids engaged. They smell it in the cafeteria.”

Hoover considered baking bread on site at each of the district’s 53 schools, but he ultimately decided a central bakery would be the best option because of equipment and workforce issues at the individual schools, which would prevent each site from producing the full array of breads needed.

Once the bakery is operating at full scale, which Hoover estimates will happen later this month, all bread products will be made in house. That includes rolls, hoagies, hamburger and hot dog buns, loaves and sticks, all of which will be whole grain. Hoover estimates that the bakery will produce 45,000 loaves of bread a year.

The bakery is in a newly built 25,000-square-foot facility. While the bakery required an initial investment in equipment, Hoover estimates that producing all bread products in house will save the district $40,000 a year. The bakery also created the need for five full-time positions—two drivers and three bakers. “We had the funds to do it because the district’s fund balance was healthy and we needed an opportunity to invest back into the program,” Hoover says.

Neighboring districts have expressed an interest in purchasing bread from Amarillo, which Hoover says he will look into once the program is fully operational. Additional products like cakes could also come on line in the future, but additional equipment like walk-ins would need to be purchased.

Hoover says the bakery uses just two recipes, both supplied by the USDA, although the recipes were tweaked a bit to perform well in the machines. From the roll recipe, hamburgers and hot dogs buns, hoagies and rolls are produced. The other recipe is for loaf bread. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources