School cafeteria food not like mom makes? | ParkRecord.com

School cafeteria food not like mom makes?

Frank Fisher, Of the Record staff

Treasure Mountain International Middle School has a whole lot of learning going on. But there is also a whole lot of cooking and baking going on behind the scenes to feed the learners.

Maybe it’s a rites-of-passage, maybe nobody’s cooking beats mom’s, but students tend to berate the school food even though many seem to be eating it and fewer seem to be opting for the sack lunch from home.

"No one eats here unless they’re really hungry or don’t have time to make a lunch," said eighth-grade student Cerene Shepard. She said some people weigh the options and just decide not to eat at all. "That’s why everyone is so skinny here," she said.

Monday’s menu offers seven choices including such diverse meals as chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese with pizza, taco salads, deli sandwiches and garden salads.

Cafeteria supervisor Christy Atkinson, might also be called head chef. She has held the position at Treasure Mountain for eight years. Today, she places trays of chicken fried steak in the oven and blends macaroni and cheese. Other employees make salads, and Vickie Osguthorpe slices ham for the deli sandwiches while her made-from-scratch cakes bake in the oven for tomorrow’s lunch, but she said her specialty is baking cookies.

The kitchen is very clean and the shining stainless appliances would be the rave of those who must have the best when remodeling their kitchens in the event they need to cook for 300.

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All food preparers wear hairnets and plastic serving gloves, required by law. There are no dirty pots or pans to be seen in the preparation area.

Two seatings are held for lunch, with a half-hour break in between to regroup. Atkinson prepares over 300 lunches daily. Students are charged $2.00 for lunch, and $1.30 for breakfast for the 60 or so who arrive early enough to eat before classes.

Although Atkinson says she likes to cook, she also says, "I’m tired of it when I get home. Her son Harley, 16, told her her cooking is pretty good. "My husband Bret just has to eat whatever," she said. "He doesn’t get a say."

Different entrees are served at each of the three cafeteria serving windows. More guys are in lines for the hot food, girls slightly outnumber guys in the salad and sandwich line.

"They’re terribly small," said ninth-grade student, Dane Albun of school meal portions. "They are made like a snack."

Principal Bob O’Connor said he likes the food. His favorite is the Philly steak sandwich. "The French fries aren’t bad either," he said.

Atkinson said the menu is rotated every six weeks. A nutritionist plans the meals and all meals are fixed according to set recipes .

The best meals? Spaghetti seems to rate high on the student picks. Ninth-grade student Kyle Matt said the canned peaches are really good.

Worst? The universal buzz was that the hotdogs have the consistency of rubber, bounce high and are "horrible." Cheese draws criticism from some when sprinkled on salads and unusual styles of cheese seem unwelcome at Treasure Mountain. K.T. O’Conor, a Treasure Mountain eighth-grade student, said she hasn’t eaten school food since fourth grade. Eighth-grade student Jessica Boone brought her own lunch. "I’m sick so my mom made me soup."