Feeding A School

By Adam McKnight

While many believe that feeding a school is a typically easy job, there is a lot that actually goes into it. From supply chain issues to meeting dietary and Department of Education guidelines, it is not as easy as it is cracked up to be. At Federal Hocking High School and Middle School, Amanda McKnight, Tausha Adams, and Mike Bellar work everyday to make sure that the students get the food they need. As they come into the school, Mike and Tausha start by preheating all of the ovens. Followed by checking the temperature on the walk-in fridge and freezer, as well as the standing fridge. After that, Mike begins to cut up fruit for breakfast and lunch, while Tausha starts making hot breakfast for the students.

Once Amanda comes into the school, she immediately starts working on lunch, getting the meats and vegetables cooked, followed by the other sides. Spending about four hours making lunch with the help of Mike and Tausha, she makes enough food to feed anywhere between 350 and 400 students. However, sometimes while making lunch, Amanda has to do a bit of improvisation as she can’t always get the food she needs for the lunches. “Making menus a month in advance and only ordering food a week at a time, it’s hard to predict what will be available.” While the supply chain is getting better, there are still some issues.

However, the supply chain isn’t the only challenge the kitchen faces while cooking for the students. Dietary restrictions make it harder for the kitchen to give every student a meal. From the lactose intolerant to the gluten free, it’s getting harder to feed the school. Another challenge is making sure each week of meals follows the guidelines set by the Ohio Board of Education. Each student has to eat a certain amount of each of the main food groups, and a certain amount of each of the vegetable subgroups. However, using charts provided by the state, it is easier to make sure that the students are getting the right amount of the right things for both breakfast and lunch.

To make sure each student gets the correct amount of vegetables, the kitchen likes to resort to tomatoes and side salads. Side salads are a good source of green, red, and orange vegetables. With lettuce, spinach, peppers, and cucumbers as the green vegetables, tomatoes as the red vegetable, and carrots as the orange vegetable, the kitchen covers most of the guidelines set by the state. However, it is “a bit of a challenge to adhere to each students’ individual palettes while still being nutritious,” so getting the students to eat the correct amount of fruits and vegetables can prove challenging. However, the kitchen would like to hear suggestions from the students as to what lunches they would like to see on the menu. While preparing lunch, the kitchen also has to limit fats, salts, and sugars.

But, through all the challenges provided by cooking for a school, all of the kitchen staff enjoys coming into work. Whether it’s getting to see the students enjoy the food or working with the other kitchen staff, the Federal Hocking High School and Middle School cooks do love their jobs.

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