Homemade Cafeteria Food

Question:  Why are my kids not getting fed homemade meals like I use to?  {January 29, 2015}

This is a great question, and its answer involves multiple factors.  First, a school cafeteria is required to operate self-sufficiently, which means that the revenue collected through sales, and the school lunch program reimbursements from the State, must be sufficient enough to pay for the operation of the cafeteria services department.  The costs to run a cafeteria not only include food and supplies, but it also includes labor costs.  In short, school cafeterias need to pay for themselves.  Local property taxes and state funding are not intended for cafeteria use.

Many years ago, LaBrae had cafeteria cooks working shifts that were more hours than the shift hours of today's cooks.  This reduces the overall labor hours available in the cafeteria department for preparing more homemade meals, which is more labor intensive. This reduction in cafeteria hours is something that is common among public schools as districts have taken steps to keep their cafeterias from spending more than the revenue available.  Simply, with less labor time available, districts have transitioned to using many food products that come pre-cooked and requiring the cafeteria personnel to heat and serve.  On many occasion, our cooks will take base products, such as pasta sauce, and prepare it with added spices and ingredients to make it more palatable than the base sauce product.  Also,another example of how our staff works to balance pre-made meals with homemade offerings is the monthly offering of homemade red and white pizza.   

Another factor impacting offerings is the federal school nutrition requirements.  Every school who receives lunch reimbursements from the government must comply with these requirements or lose the cafeteria funding.  Trying to prepare homemade meals for our students is a difficult task in the time alotted, doing so with the additional requirements from the government would take additional time that simply isn't available, and allowing for longer work shifts for our personnel to do so would jeopardize the long-term finances of our cafeteria operation.  Therefore, LaBrae strives to strike a balance between offering the best food services our resources will allow, while meeting nutrition requirements and maintaining sound financial management of our operation.