Nebraska City Public Schools’ new lunch program is getting positive reviews from students and school personnel.
The district hired the Taher company to run the food service at each of the buildings last summer. Superintendent Jeff Edwards said the company is helping the district meet the goals of providing a well-balanced meal at a low cost and increasing lunch program participation. Students say the new program has a few kinks to be worked out, but they are enjoying their lunches more with the new setup.
“The food tastes better,” said senior Mimi Shirley. She said the cooking methods used make the food more appealing. Added senior Lynn Davis, “The way they prepare the food is better.” Davis, who eats during C lunch, the final lunch period, said the portions are also more consistent this year. She said before the food service company was hired, the portions were sometimes smaller for students eating last. Davis said the food for both breakfast and lunch is always prepared on time and the staff members are pleasant. “They always have a smile on their face,” she said. Shirley said she appreciates the additional healthy options and the way the kitchen staff works together. “The communication in the kitchen is better,” she said.
The new chef is getting rave reviews. “The soup is phenomenal,” Shirley said.
Junior Paxton Farris said the fries are also popular, along with pizza that’s offered in addition to the regular menu on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “There aren’t many foods that you could do that with and be successful,” he said. Junior Jenna Peterson said the chef made a Chinese stir fry in front of the students, which was also a big hit. Edwards said future plans include offering specialty items at the Middle School as well. Farris said students also enjoy the cake served once a month to celebrate student and staff birthdays.
New healthy options include “star fruit,” that Shirley said is one of her favorite new menu items. She said she also likes that fish is offered on Friday’s during Lent.
Taher is also involving the students more in selecting what foods to serve. “Kids are now having some say in what’s on the menu,” Edwards said. Davis said the increased student input and open communication between the kitchen staff and students has been a positive change. “If we request something, they’re going to listen to us,” she said. Some students say they wish food pricing was more consistent and that some food service workers charge extra if students serve themselves a larger portion, while others do not.
Still, Farris said his overall impression of the new setup is a good one. “All in all, this year is better,” he said. Edwards said when issues do come up, Taher works with the school to fix the problem. “Any complaint or concern gets addressed and taken care of,” he said. The students say the company pays attention to quality and they no longer have to worry about being served expired milk. “The food quality generally is a lot better. It’s a more nutritional menu,” Davis said.
Edwards said participation in the lunch program is now estimated at 80 to 85 percent compared to 50 to 55 percent at different times during the last school year. The cost of a basic meal (not including additional servings or a la carte items) has remained the same as last year and the new setup gives students more menu options than they’ve had previously. Edwards said the transition to Taher has gone smoothly, in part due to the company retaining a number of the school’s food service workers. He said the company is open to suggestions and adapts to the needs of the school. “With any change there are ups and downs, but I’ve heard more ups than downs,” he said. “So far, so good.”
By Grace Johnson
Nebraska City News Press