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Preparing meals for the Cats

Preparing meals for the Cats


Hungry students begin coming through the line at 7:30 a.m., but Devan Hanson and his team must arrive earlier to make sure everything is ready.

Hanson’s team of four, including himself, serve up breakfast and lunch for the students, teachers and staff at Hemingford School.

Their day begins 6 a.m. when team member Debbie Hill arrives. Hanson, the cafeteria manager, around 6:30 a.m. Team members Stacey Dillard and Tina Krebs arrive a little later as the team makes sure everything is ready for the students’ arrival.

“The team is great,” Hanson said.

A year ago Hanson was managing a kitchen in Colorado, but the COVID-19 pandemic closed the kitchen and Hanson lost his job. He returned to Hemingford and is now managing the kitchen and creating menus for the students in the school he graduated from.

Each menu has to fall in line with the Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs put forth by the United States Department of Agriculture. The standards make sure the students get a certain amount of protein, vegetables, fruit and more.

The standards are not always easy to work with, Hanson said, “they are very, very stretch. It can be tough, especially now with COVID.”

Distributors are out of so many different things it becomes a challenge to create menus that are in line with the standards, he said. However, the guidelines (standards) are necessary because it is important to give the students a balanced diet.

Hanson got his first taste of cooking in the culinary program at Hemingford High School. As a member of FCCLA he took part in the ProStart program. The program is, according to the ProStart website, “a career and technical education program that unites the food service industry and the classroom to teach high school students culinary skills and restaurant management principles, as well as employability skills such as communication, teamwork, professionalism and time management.”

For Hanson the trailing lead to a career it cooking and he said, “It makes me happy just to cook food.”

With breakfast over the team gets a short break then it is time to get ready for lunch.

Lunch starts at 11-11:05 a.m.

“They (students) are not big fans of broccoli,” Hanson said. “They like chicken sticks and tacos.”

Most of the menus stick to the basics, he said. The meals are things “mom would make at home.”

The menu for “today,” Hanson said consists of loaded bake potato soap, a garden salad, a cup of fruit, strawberry frozen yogurt and milk or water. For students with special diets the cooks prepare individual meals and for kids who are lactose intolerant there is a juice box or water.

“Some of the students thank you for making them good food,” Hill said. “It’s nice when you hear those comments.”

By 2:30 p.m. the kitchen is usually clean-up and the team attention switches to the next day’s meals.

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