When City High moved to its new home in the historical Bell Telephone Building in 2012 it only seemed fitting to go “old school” when providing their students with fresh made and affordable choices.
City High’s Nutritional Food Service Staff From L to R: Michael Gasbarre—Sous Chef, Rich Dyer—Chef and Food Service Manager, Denise Provident —Food Service-Cafeteria Manager, and Lemona Wrencher-Strong—Food Service
Rick Wertheimer, one of City High’s co-founders and the administration knew good nutrition was just another piece of the education puzzle. The new kitchen created a great way to stay in budget, offer fresh made foods to their students, and ultimately aid in higher academic performance.
Together with PMC Property Group, an architect, and a person who specialized in commercial kitchen planning, City High designed a custom kitchen build-out. The new commercial kitchen allowed their staff with Chef Rich Dyer to create homemade dishes that were both appetizing and affordable while meeting both the State and National School Lunch Program’s (NSLP) strict requirements.
Chef Dyer prepares nutritionally balanced hot entree for students—Stir Fried Rice with Sweet and Sour Chicken.
With the state and NSLP strict nutritional guidelines, and with City High having over 68% (as of 2017) of their students receiving assistance or free lunches, students were required to follow minimum average of fruits, vegetables, proteins, milk and whole grains incorporated into their lunch over each week.
The daily menu of fresh made hot soups, grab and go meals, salads, wraps and hot entrée components are broken down for each week and submitted to NSLP for approval. The challenge of the new state guidelines meant “…we had to find that middle ground that makes the state, kids and parents happy.” “Creating nutritional dishes that kids would eat was the goal,” “…I’d rather have them fed then throwing things away.” Said Chef Richard Dyer. Equally important City High was now able to provide great and enjoyable choices at an affordable price.
|Sous Chef, Michael Gasbarre packages just baked breadsticks with mozzarella for arriving students
|Food Service-Cafeteria Manager, Denise Provident creates grab-n-go salad choices
Beyond Tater Tots
Students of the old Clark Building location missed their tater tots from an outside Meal Service System. According to Denise Provident, Cafeteria Manager and veteran of the of the food service staff, “…they were a little leery…especially with the new NSLP nutritional regiment…but they loved the choices.” By the end of the first trimester the broader exposure of new foods and solid nutrition had slowly changed students eating habits and favorites were replaced. The big sellers: Roast Beef with Au Jus Dip, Cranberry Chicken Salad, Stir Fried Rice with Sweet and Sour Chicken, Fall Pasta with Rotini and Sausage, Southwest Chicken and Vegetable Gravy over Biscuit, or Steak Salad with a Pittsburgh twist—topped with French Fries and Smoky Tomato Dressing, all from scratch, and then here is the classic Homemade Hand-Rolled Pizza, “This is quite the task when you’re making 33 full sheet trays of pizza, but the students love it.” said Chef Dyer.
Lemona Wrencher-Strong—Food Service
The School Breakfast Program
With a statewide focus to increase nutritional breakfasts for students, City High had around 20-30 students choosing their school cafeteria over the nearby fast food places. After changing things up a bit with daily cartoons and annual trimester gift card raffles and hot option every day and of course assorted breakfast sandwiches, City High now serves around 70 students daily. For a high school in an urban setting, 70 kids is big breakfast attendance!
City High also provides a special hot served breakfast two days a week where Sous-chef; Michael Gasbarre will serve pancakes and sausage links with southern breakfast potatoes and eggs, but they also have choices of whole grain grab-n-go options like cereal, bagels and donuts as well.
Students are also given the choice to eat in the main dining hall or they can choose Quite Dining. This gives students who would like to do homework a more peaceful eating setting.
Each month after early dismissals the Food Service staff prepares a themed lunch for the staff. The original two founders felt that breaking bread together was important in building comradery and giving everyone the opportunity to share.
They also prepare food for the board meetings as well special events such as Literacy Night. Literacy Night celebrates reading with a giant themed dinner with menu entrees such as Stone Soup, Green Eggs and Ham, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—it was a hit bringing the community with small children together. Students could later tour the school leaving with a donated care package of books generously donated by the Carnegie Library.
Making the Grade
Responding parents and students give City High food program an A+ on City High’s Niche school profile, but according to the Food Service team the credit goes to the administration who is behind the program 100%, and committed to fresh sound nutrition for their students.