An annual contract was set up with a company, called Taher, to be the new lunch provider for Gering Public Schools and Scottsbluff Public Schools.
Tim Meisner, business manager for Gering Public Schools, said that the new service provider was set up to provide better options for the children.
“Going with Taher Food Service, we will be providing a better quality and better tasting food items,” said Meisner.
This past March, there were talks in place for Scottsbluff Public Schools and Gering Public Schools to collaborate on a deal for a new lunch service to be provided to the districts.
Chief Financial Officer of Scottsbluff Public Schools, Lavon Hood, and other district staff members went to schools where these programs were at to get first-hand feedback regarding food quality, innovation, employee satisfaction, student satisfaction and appeal of the facilities.
“We went to schools in Colorado and different places. We wanted to see what the children thought of the food and if we liked it,” said Hood.
Some of the decision by Scottsbluff Public Schools was based on finances, but they also wanted a company that had an innovative program and one that was liked by students. The criteria to choose the company was based on the qualities of a service capability plan, experience and references, doing business with like-size schools, financial conditions, personnel management, innovation, promotion of the food service program, involvement of students and cost.
The contract was put together for Scottsbluff Public Schools in April and then approved by the school board on May 11.
“We are certainly excited to be a partner to be their food service program. We aim to increase choices, use local ingredients and make meals from scratch,” said Judy Cameron, vice president of operations for Taher.
Some administration at Gering Public Schools also made on-site visits to the schools of the companies.
“We saw that there was more variety of foods and that the students ate better at the schools,” said Meisner.
The changes will be few at both school districts. The existing staff at Gering Public Schools will have the same pay and hours.
At Scottsbluff Public Schools, Taher will manage the operations and be in charge of day-to-day operations. Taher is looking to hire a food services director, a corporate chef and other food service employees.
There initially won’t be a lot of food choices as the new staff gets trained by Taher. Once things get settled into a routine at Gering Public Schools, there will be three to five choices a day offered for the junior high and high school students. For the elementary schools, there will be a salad bar with a line of fruit and vegetable choices along with two choices for the main items. According to Meisner, some foods like pizza and hamburgers will be featured everyday as a la carte items.
The biggest change in food options for Scottsbluff Public would be in the elementary schools. There will be two hot entree options and fresh fruit and salad bars at all of the elementary schools. At Bluffs Middle School and Scottsbluff High School, there will be the same choice of a traditional entree but also hot sandwiches, pizza, Mexican dishes, fruit and vegetable/salad bars as well as a deli station.
Taher also educates the children through an implementation of the Harvest of the Month program. For the school year, a Harvest of the Month Program is implemented to create information about a featured fruit, vegetable and herb, grain, spice or legume in recipes created by Taher’s teams of chefs and dietitians. Signs are presented on the various nutritional qualities of the featured products in the recipe as well as a display that changes weekly.
The menus for the new food options will go live on the websites in August.