With everything at a standstill last spring, the nutrition team at Grapevine Colleyville Independent School District in Grapevine, Texas, was looking for a way to bring some familiarity and comfort to students and families during the pandemic.
The team got together, and in less than two weeks, came up with four different family-style meals that could be purchased for pick up and reheated at home.
“Students’ and families’ lives had been disrupted, and this was a way for the nutrition services department to provide meals that were familiar to the students at affordable prices,” says chef and Culinary Trainer Jason Aronen.
The team also wanted to give back during the pandemic, and thus, decided to donate 10% of the meals’ proceeds to the district’s Education Foundation, with the rest going to the nutrition services department.
“We saw lots of restaurants doing to-go and take-and-bake meals,” says Aronen. “This venture also provided the department with an additional income stream.”
Making the menu
Families can pick up the meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and each meal sells for $25, which includes a main entree and sides.
The menu centers around comfort food and features items that have been popular with students in the past. The team changes up the offerings every couple months, although favorites such as chicken fajitas and chicken Alfredo have remained on the menu since the beginning. Other options include a pizza meal kit, chicken pot pie and beef lasagna with garlic bread and a Caesar salad.
Typically, Aronen prepares the meals by himself, however, other staff members step in when large orders come in.
“When there are more than 30 orders, someone will come and help. When we have large orders of 75 or more, there is a team that coordinates and assembles the meals,” says Food Services Director Julie Telesca. “There have been different PTAs that have bought a meal for every employee of a school. [Aronen] definitely needed help with those days!”
The meals have been popular addition, with the team serving over 1,000 of them since their debut a year ago.
While the program will be on hiatus during summer break, the nutrition team plans to provide the meals again in the fall. The final details are still being worked out, but they anticipate offering them once a week.