Cooking up a new look for school lunch | NevadaAppeal.com

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Cooking up a new look for school lunch

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealJanice Mandoki cooks ground beef in the Carson High School kitchen on Thursday for a new pizza recipe during training on the new menu and procedures for school district food service.

Among everything else new and exciting associated with school resuming on Monday, there is one particular change that may carry the most weight.

School lunch.

The Carson City School District decided at the end of last school year to contract out nutrition services, and selected Aramark as the provider.

The value of the program, officials explain, is that a large company has more buying power and can therefore purchase more

food for less. With that savings, it can invest back in the program, improving the quality

of service.

But what all of that boils down to is: They want more kids eating school lunches. And that means change.

Already, cafeterias at some schools have gotten a facelift. Brighter paint and colorful pictures have been added to the walls.

When students return, rather than having one entree, they will have three or four to choose from, and a fruit and vegetable cart will be available to help students pick healthier snacks.

It’s going to take some adjustments to pull that off, however. Earlier this week, representatives from Aramark led cafeteria workers through the new recipes and methods of food preparations they will be expected to follow.

“I think it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be good,” said Patty Temple, who’s worked in the district’s nutrition services for 15 years, going on her second year at Seeliger Elementary School. “It’s going to give the kids a lot more to choose from, and it looks like it’s going to be nutritious. So we’re going to be in a bit of a frenzy, but the children are going to love it.”

Some parents had initially opposed the switch, expressing concern that the food would be more processed than before.

Teri Teeter, cafeteria manager at Empire Elementary School, said she’s noticed just the opposite.

“We’re actually going to be doing a lot more home cooking than we did before,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot more planning and preparation than we did before.”

Bonnie Eastwood, the district’s director of nutrition services, said parents can be more involved in their child’s choices as well. Menus will be posted on the district’s website, carsoncityschools.com, along with nutrition information for each of the items.

“I’m interested to see how the parents are going to react. I think they’re going to be very pleased,” she said. “I think it will be particularly helpful for diabetics.”

High school students are in for a surprise as well. The cafeteria will be set up as a food court, offering choices like pizza, sandwiches and a taco bar.

“The concept is by providing greater variety in an atmosphere kids are used to, we’re going to draw more participation,” said Anthony Turley, the school district’s finance director. “When they have choice and it’s a reasonable price, a better price than they’ll get outside, they’re going to stay here.”

A new policy at the high school this year will close the campus to freshmen, which may also drive up the number of students buying food from the school.

Turley said 100-150 students have been purchasing hot lunch at the high school. The goal, he said, is to increase that to around 900.

Some cafeteria workers said they feared lunch service is going to slow down at first as they learn the new system. But Eastwood is confident they can make the transition.

“It’s a change, so it’s going to take some getting used to,” she said. “But we know it’s doable. They’re used to being flexible and adaptable.”