FOLKS SEPARATED from their public school lunchroom or cafeteria experiences by a period of 25 years or more might be surprised — very surprised — to discover the workings of lunchrooms that nourish students today.
We fondly remember the role of the wise and matronly “lunchroom ladies,” with sometimes a guy or two sprinkled in among them, who arrived at school very early each morning to begin cooking food for the kids’ lunch. “Cooking” here is italicized intentionally, because cooking is what the lunchroom staffers used to do — using products and ingredients purchased in bulk.
While limited food preparation and cooking still take place today, the modern lunchroom is more of heat-and-serve and open-and-serve environment that makes great use of already-processed, portioned, and packaged products.
The reasons for the lunchroom change from what used to be to what is today basically are these: 1. Federal nutritional requirements for school meals are much more scientific and stringent. 2. Food safety is a very high priority. 3. School lunchrooms are on a tight budget.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the top authority for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), but it uses each of the states — usually the agriculture department in each of the states — to help administer the program. In Florida, the Bureau of Food Distribution, a unit of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, “ensures that USDA-donated commodities and recovered produce are made available to eligible recipients.” The bureau administers or provides support to five USDA programs in Florida, with the largest being the NSLP.
The Bureau of Food Distribution uses a variety of communication, service, storage, and delivery systems — including public refrigerated warehousing companies — to help get the USDA food where it’s supposed to go.
Next month, I’ll share more about the NSLP, the public refrigerated warehousing role in the program, and how USDA foods get from the producers to the schools near you.
This column is sponsored by Adams Cold Storage.
column by BEN ADAMS, JR.
BIO: Ben Adams, Jr. is an owner and president of Adams Cold Storage, LLC, in Auburndale. He has been directly involved in citrus production, warehousing and distribution, as well as state and community support, since 1980. His facility incorporates about 200,000 square feet of multitemperature warehousing, with an extensive expansion project having broken ground and currently under way. Next year, the company is expected to have about 6 million pounds worth of food to store and help distribute to school districts all across peninsular Florida.