WASHOE COUNTY, NV - It's no secret that the USDA has been pushing schools to serve healthier meals to students. According to WCSD Nutrition Services Director Bill Al Soussi, once school is out, the department spends much of its time making sure its food is on par with the current standards.
"Menu design, menu production and compliance with USDA requirements all take place during the summer months for the staff," he says.
There are 5 categories or groups that the district focuses on when trying to create balanced meals for students: grains, protein, fruit, vegetables and milk. Getting the food from the central kitchen out to roughly a hundred schools each week requires a massive operation. On average, the district prepares meals for about 47,000 students a day during the school year. That's a big jump from only 5,000 during the summer time. During the summer months the staff doesn't really get a break. They're basically working year-round. When it comes time for the regular school year to start they have to bring in about 4 times as many employees to keep up. Fortunately the staff has a bit of help in the kitchen. Central Kitchen Manager Dolly Taylor says packing food for tens of thousands of students can be time consuming, unless you have machines to help speed up the process.
"We have one machine that can do about 60,000 items a day," she says.
Once the food is packed and ready to cook delivery drivers load up and take it to the schools. The meals for middle and high school students are mostly prepared on site, meaning they only need deliveries weekly. For the other grade levels, it is a non-stop operation.
"The 7 other routes are delivering to each elementary school every single day. So we work around the clock to do that," says Taylor.