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‘The Skinny’ on school nutrition

When asked what their favorite class of the day is, plenty of students would undoubtedly answer, “Lunch!”. Yet, how many students know what goes into making a daily meal in the school cafeteria?

Starting at 6:30 in the morning, cafeteria workers begin arriving to start preparing for the day’s meals.

“The daily workflow in the Bryan High cafeteria is very impressive and is extremely busy,” Sundy Fryrear, Director of Bryan ISD Nutrition Services, said. “Workflow in the kitchen is extremely fast paced and driven by tight time schedules. The employees are basically on their feet all day with the exception of a 30-minute lunch break, and a 10-minute break after lunch service, if time permits.”

During each school day, workers are assigned specific tasks, like preparing the breads, meats or salads. Each of the meals are prepared on-site, with the exception of Pizza Hut pizza, which is offered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Each week the cafeteria receives a new shipment of groceries from Houston and milk is delivered daily while bread  is shipped two to three times a week.

When planning meals for the entire district, the Nutrition Services department must take into account several factors.

“When planning menus we have to consider: federal and state regulations, popularity of food items among students, cost of the food items, use of government commodities, available equipment, labor and which day of the week to offer an item,” Fryrear said. “Not only are we required to meet strict nutritional guidelines, but we also have to satisfy the wants and needs of over 15,000 students and their parents, plus try to break even on the business end.”

As a branch of the school district, the Nutrition Services department operates as a completely self-supported business, covering costs such as labor and benefits, supplies, pest control and maintenance.

“The only local school district funds utilized are for construction of cafeterias in new schools and kitchen remodels on older campuses. Our current budget is over 8 million dollars,” Fryrear said.

A portion of revenue for the department comes from government subsidiaries and commodities, which cover the Free and Reduced Lunch program.

The Free and Reduced Lunch program offers lunch to economically disadvantaged students at a discounted or free price, and currently serves around sixty-percent of Bryan High students.

“At Bryan ISD, we strive to provide the best quality, most popular food choices to our students,” Fryrear said. “For the amount of money that we have available to spend on food items, coupled with the strict government guidelines and the fact that we are preparing meals in an institutionalized setting, I think we do a great job!”

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