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.