This isn’t the high school lunch you remember.
Menu trends, crowded lunch periods and new USDA regulations are just a few of the variables schools need to take into account these days.
We spoke with Eric Zacarias, Food Services Supervisor for the Cincinnati Public Schools, about the changing school foodservice landscape and the equipment needed to support new meal options.
Eric emphasizes that a great benefit of being in non-commercial foodservice is that you’re not competing with other school districts so operators can reach out and ask for advice and people are glad to share ideas – what worked or didn’t work.
At the Walnut Hills High School where Sushi Wednesday is in effect, Eric relies upon the Cambro CamKiosk® for a lot more than sushi. With over 2,700 kids in the high school, there is a near universal truth to school lunches:
“Many students are assigned to the same lunch period and getting them through just a serving area in a timely manner is very challenging.”
Enter the CamKiosk. Eric was trying to find a way to bring some of the students out of the serving area. The goal was to alleviate the pressure on the serving line while still providing kids an option for a reimbursable meal. He turned to the CamKiosk which has been in use for a year and the results are positive.
“We do about 200 to 300 servings a day. It does vary depending on the day and what’s on the menu – depends on the hot items for that day. We have 6 entrees available every day: 2 cold and 4 hot. Here, one of the most popular menu items is Cincinnati-style chili and Cincinnati coneys.”
Feedback from the Students and Staff
“When they first saw it, they thought it wouldn’t fit through the doorway. But they were impressed that it was designed to fit in the doorway and it is very easy to maneuver and adjust the awning as well to accommodate the height of the person working the CamKiosk that day. The students know that using the Kiosk will get them through quicker which gives them more time to eat. Any way we can add more points of sale and reduce congestion then more students will participate.”
When buying new equipment, there are a couple of things Eric considers:
“One of the main things is it has to be user friendly. If I buy something the staff doesn’t like or it’s challenging for them to use it, they won’t like to use. If it makes their job easier, it’s easier to implement.”
Versatility is also important. Eric also has several Cambro Versa Food Bars® in operation and uses in a variety of ways.
“Not all of our schools are the same or have the same space allocations so what and where we place a product and what it’s used for, can vary greatly from school to school. Having the freezer packs [Camchillers] that don’t require electricity for the food bars makes them that much easier to use.”
While some view Grab-N-Go as a trend, Eric thinks it’s here to stay. It probably won’t go away because lunch periods will always be crowded and quick serve items will be popular. Lunch is the only social period kids have at school so grab and go will continue to grow.
He also thinks school foodservice should look to commercial restaurants and find healthier versions of those offerings.
About Cincinnati Public Schools Food Service
The Cincinnati Public Schools have approximately 33,000 students in 53 schools. Each school has its own kitchen which makes for custom lunch offerings. All schools offer the Universal Breakfast Program. Most elementary schools also have an After-School Program as well as a Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program.