It’s back to lunch as usual at Gretna Elementary School, following a renovation project that wrapped up last week on the school kitchen.
The work, which began this summer, was completed as a second phase of further renovations at Gretna Elementary School. Due to the extent of the work involved for the kitchen portion of the project, that phase was given more time for completion.
For the first month of the school year, kitchen staff offered one menu choice each day instead of the typical three. Parents were asked to order ahead of time using the Nutrislice app.
Food deliveries were sent up the street to Gretna Middle School, where GES kitchen staff met to prepare food, driving it to GES and unloading for lunch setup.
As time went on, the staff were able to begin using the cooler and other pieces of the GES kitchen, though no access to the dish machine meant staff were packing up dirty dishes and taking them to GMS to wash.
That continued through Sept. 10. On Sept. 13, all three choices were being offered and food was being prepped and served at GES by Sept. 16.
The project ended up finishing ahead of its mid-September deadline.
“We’re happy that it finished up a little bit quicker than expected,” said Sharon Schaefer, Gretna Public Schools director of food and nutrition services. “I’ve heard from a lot of people how beautiful it is. Really, it’s just so clean looking. The team that works at GES did a fabulous job keep it clean, but when something is decades old, there’s only so much you can do. Now, everything is white and bright and gray and modern.”
The kitchen is now larger. Part of the storage behind the stage area was opened up and what used to be the hallway between the kitchen and stage area is now an enclosed dish room. A dry storage area was added on, and what used to be dry storage is now an office for the school’s kitchen manager.
The GES kitchen features a brand new walk-in fridge and freezer, both of which are much larger than the old ones.
“The footprint of the kitchen was changed,” Schaefer said. “The old kitchen was much smaller and had very limited cooking equipment compared to the other elementaries. Our previous menu had to be adjusted to make it possible for the manager at GES to serve similar food. In many situations, they couldn’t serve the same food simply because they didn’t have the equipment.”
Now, the kitchen staff have a steam-jacketed kettle, essentially a giant pot where they are able to cook large quantities of food: for example, pasta or ground beef.
A combination oven now allows staff to cook with either moist or dry heat, allowing for steaming, roasting and crisping.
A quick-switch serving line was also installed at GES, as the serving space is still smaller than the other school kitchens. Aspen Creek Middle School is the only other district building with a similar model, which allows for the food wells to be switched to hot or cold, depending on the day, providing easier access to the day’s food choices.