Food for thought: Celebrating School Nutrition Employee Day

School nutrition workers and students at Hereford Middle School showing off produce grown at the school and used in the cafeteria

Imagine being responsible for serving more than 12 million meals to children of every age – and doing it on a tight budget, with limited time for cooking and serving, all the while taking care to be sure that the food is nutritious and tasty. Over the last year, the Baltimore County Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services has increased the nutritional content of meals in accordance with federal guidelines. The office serves breakfast, lunch, afterschool snacks, and suppers utilizing 800 school nutrition employees of Baltimore County Public Schools.

“The people who work in the warehouse and out on the roads and cafeteria lines, they really are the heroes in our operations,” says Karen Levenstein, director of the BCPS Office of Food and Nutrition Services.

Feeding the students of Baltimore County is a monumental task, but one that the Office of Food and Nutrition Services accomplishes with plenty of planning and manpower. Behind the cafeteria line are scores of cooks, drivers, routers, and administrators working to make sure that students across the county have the fuel they need to learn throughout the school day.

Food delivery operations begin early in the Baltimore County Public Schools. By 5 a.m. each school day, drivers and workers at the county’s food warehouse in Cockeysville are starting to load pallets of frozen foods or dry goods onto half a dozen delivery trucks. More than 250 types of foods and supplies are stored at the warehouse and used in a constant ballet of deliveries, preparation, and vendor calls. By 6 a.m., each of the delivery trucks is on the road taking prepared foods to about 50 “base kitchens” in the school system’s middle and high schools.

Each of the base kitchens prepares hot foods for the elementary schools in their community. By the time morning deliveries are made, the cafeteria staff may already be cooking; if it’s a dish that needs time to prepare – spaghetti, for instance – cooks must begin preparing and cooking as early as 7:00 a.m. to make it in time for the lunch rush.

At about 9 a.m. each day, about 50 “Cube vans” are loaded from the base kitchens with hot entrees and other perishable foods that will be offered that day on the ordering lines in the cafeterias.

So the next time a student bites into a carrot or a piece of pineapple in his or her school lunchroom, consider what it took to get that food onto the plate. For those behind-the-scenes workers in the Office of Food and Nutrition Services, it’s all part of the menu of services they provide each and every day.

Ravens player Torrey Smith and Karen Levenstein at a school event to promote healthy eating
Superintendent Dance visiting school nutrition workers on the first day of school
Julie Long, cafeteria manager at Arbutus Middle School and her staff, were honored in April by the Catonsville Chamber of Commerce as the Team That Make a Difference.
Westowne Elementary school nutrition workers join in celebration of Dr. Seuss


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