The district is also expanding its Provision II free breakfast program to an additional eight schools this year in order to build participation and help more kids learn more effectively. This comes at the same time that administrators have introduced a first-ever all-day kindergarten program—in effect, adding 500 students to the lunch program.
The district has a total enrollment approaching 18,000 spread across 32 schools: three high schools, six junior highs, one alternative school and 22 elementaries. Total operating budget for f/s is $5.7 million. There are 200 f/s employees.
Old schools: "It might vary by district, but here our high schools are pretty old," says Laurie Peyton, MS, RD, the district's f/s supervisor. North High School, the first to be remodeled back in Oct. 2000, was originally built in 1971 to be a junior high school, and was converted into a high school in 1984. West High's kitchen dates back to the 1950s, and Central High, the one currently undergoing remodeling, was built in the 1890s.
"The kitchen and cafeteria at North were designed for plating lunches and shipping them out," she recalls.
"We had conveyor belts in the serving area. Well, we got rid of the conveyor belts but still, the way kids eat in this century is different than how they ate in 1970 when that kitchen was planned." The total price tag for the remodel was close to $800,000.
The North High foodcourt includes such stations as:
- Pasta Nostra
- Sub City
- Won Tons
- Good-To-Go Grill
- Grab 'n Go
- American Harvest
According to Peyton, students can select from among 15 entrees and dozens of side dishes each day such as homemade soups, waffle fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, Cobb salad and bread sticks with cheese or marinara sauce.
North High's food court has changed only slightly since its inception, including a modification of the Chinese food station called Won Tons. "One of the things the kids said they really wanted was Chinese food," says Peyton. However, she and her colleagues found after a year of operation that kids did not tend to choose Chinese food on a regular daily basis, "and not enough to keep that station operating that same way because Chinese food from scratch is very labor intense."
Sales up 8%: Sales following the initial remodel rose a respectable 8%, according to Peyton, with reimbursable meals jumping from 450 to 650 per day. "That's really important. We were capturing more kids and getting reimbursement for it."
In August 2001, a change was made. Won Tons was offered on Tuesday and Thursday, but a new concept called Hot Diggity Dog was substituted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The new station served Chicago-style hotdogs, Polish sausages stuffed with cheese, bratwurst and other favorites. A new canvas sign was created and simply rolled down over the Won Tons sign on the appropriate days.
More beverage space: The Central High remodel began in August 2002, and when completed will devote a bit more space to beverages, which Peyton says has been an area of huge growth. "We're going to have one full side that's just beverages merchandised in a reach-in, glass-front cooler. It's still kind of a grab-and-go concept like we have in the first school, but it's more of it."
In addition, certain of the station names have been altered to fit the new school. For example, a submarine sandwich concept called Sub City 53rd Street at North High will be called River City Subs at Central.
Hot Diggity Dog will be called The Hot Spot since Central's mascot is the Blue Devil. Graphics will include a devil's face and pitchfork.
Plus, inhouse brands: The district is rolling out a full-fledged inhouse branding program using proprietary food packaging. "We employed the same company that designed our signs to design a logo and personalize all our food packaging," says Peyton.