School Extra by Bob Zimmerman

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I remember having some choices about what to have for lunch in the Byron High School cafeteria back in the sixties. Macaroni & cheese, green beans or nothing, and white versus chocolate milk come to mind as the options I had on most days. Buying the weekly lunch ticket for $1.25 for each of her five kids was easier for Mom than packing lunch pails; we liked the hot lunches better anyway. I still prefer mac & cheese over soggy bread Oscar Meyer bologna sandwiches. Today, Maple Lake Senior High students have six main meal choices every day and the Elementary students have four. There is also a breakfast menu available in both cafeterias.

Chef Ryan Highberg is the A’- viands Food Service Director and he gave me a full grocery cart of information about providing lunch and breakfast meals to Maple Lake Public School students. A’- viands is a national food and service management company that is contracted by the school district to operate the food services program.

Chef Highberg is the only employee of the company based in the school and the other eight members of the food service staff are hired by the school system. A’- viands provides support for keeping up with state and federal regulations as well as for planning the 6 week long ” Base Menu” that is the foundation for the school meals. Chef Highberg told me his job involves many management functions specific to Maple Lake. For example, he had to determine how much of each bulk food commodity will be needed next year and place the order by March 26th. He has to balance funding from several sources and strives to meet his financial goals each school year. He has to keep accurate records of meals prepared, meals consumed, and left over food in order to meet Department of Education requirements. Working with local growers takes some of his time and he mentioned the 150 or so cases of apples supplied by Carlson’s Orchard in Annandale as a good example of the Farm to School program.

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