MUSCATINE, Iowa–Feeding all of the Muscatine Community School District students who get breakfast and lunch at school represents no small task. Currently, Muscatine High School and Susan Clark Junior High School have food delivered to them to prepare for their meals, and the district uses the former Central Middle School kitchen to prepare meals for all the elementary schools as well as Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School, which has an agreement with them.
For the past several years, this arrangement has worked for the district, though concerns about the facilities in Central Middle School and a desire to make operations more efficient lead it to start exploring the possibility of creating a centralized kitchen. “It has always been on my wish list due to the efficiencies it would create, and with Central closing it was the perfect opportunity to start exploring it,” said Food and Nutrition Supervisor Alisha Eggers.
In addition to not having enough room to make and store very large batches of food, Central Middle School would need to have many upgrades made to it, due to its increasing age. Director of Operations Ryan Castle detailed, “we also have HVAC and plumbing concerns with CMS, as it is an older building and in need of some significant upgrades if we are continuing to utilize that portion of the building.”
In light of these considerations, the district opted to create a new centralized kitchen on Lucas Street, near the Agricultural Learning Center. Work has begun on the building, and those who will use it look forward to the addd functionalities it will provide.
Already, work has started on the centralized kitchen, with the foundation poured and plumbing and electrical roughed in under the slab. The first week of February, the district planned to have work start on the steel frame of the building. If work continues on schedule, it should wrap up by the middle to end of July.
Once the facility opens, the district’s food and nutrition staff will have many upgraded tools at their disposal. Blast chillers will allow them to quickly cool food and safely store it and serve it at a different time. Packaging equipment will allow staff to prepackage food in a better looking and safer manner. A pair of food processors will allow for more efficient preparation of fresh fruits and vegetables and certain items for students with specialized diets. Dough equipment will eventually allow the district to produce its own breads and buns, giving students fresher grain products to enjoy. Having a centralized location will also keep delivery as simple as possible for the two delivery drivers who serve the food and nutrition staff. Havin on site offices for the food and nutrition administration staff will help them work more collaboratively, offer trainings more easily, and ensure uniformity of food quality.
With these opportunities on the horizon, Eggers looks forward to the ways the centralized kitchen will benefit students across the district. “I am super excited for the students, she beamed, especially because of, “the homemade fresh bread, buns, and the quality and consistency of foods that we will provide.”