Maschio’s Food Services Inc. is a management company serving 202 school districts comprising 450 school buildings in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida. Since the coronavirus shuttered school buildings in its markets last spring, the company has been busy providing meals for children learning at home.
Maschio’s having relied on the site’s production in normal times, it had to find an alternative solution when the school kitchens from which it operated were closed. This alternative is a new commissary kitchen inside the company’s headquarters in Chester, NJ, which has served up to 50,000 meals a day to students in the client district across the state where kitchen facilities at school are not available.
“We served nearly four million meals between when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy closed schools in the state in March and mid-July,” said Sharon Tepper, director of marketing at Maschio’s.
“Stewardship came about when we had to come up with a plan for this pandemic for school districts where we couldn’t access their kitchens, so we put it in place to produce meals and ship them to school districts. », explains Patty Fragiodakis. , Director of Operations. “We ship to those in need and cover the entire state.”
The commissary is in space in the company’s headquarters complex previously used for storage and is staffed by employees from nearby districts who have been inactive by the closures. This is Maschio’s first experience with central production other than smaller-scale satellite kitchens in some of his schools. However, he had some in-house experience to help set it up.
Photo credit: Maschio’s Food Services
Photo: School meals should include hot and cold options, like this mac and cheese/fresh fruit and veg combo.
“One of our founders, Frank Maschio, came from the restaurant industry and had experience with curators,” suggests Tepper. “In addition, we have chefs who have worked in company kitchens before.
As districts consider their fall plans, Maschio’s is preparing to serve whatever approaches its customers choose, a moving target as many districts don’t know how many of their scholars will be in-person classes at traditional school sites and how many distance learning. This of course makes a big difference for the meal provider, who has to prepare for two different service models: school feeding and remote meal delivery.
“Nowadays [mid-August] more [Maschio’s client] neighborhoods stick to a hybrid approach” that combines the two models, says Fragiodakis.
For in-school students, Maschio’s is therefore considering prepackaged and portioned take-out options, some of which can be reheated for a hot lunch solution. Where they will be consumed remains an open question.
Photo credit: Maschio’s Food Services
Photo: This croissant sandwich combo is one of the on-the-go school lunch options developed by Maschio’s Food Services for customer districts.
“Some districts will try to start with students eating in the cafeteria to provide a sense of normalcy, while others will just serve in classrooms,” Fragiodakis offers. As for distance learning students, “first, we would like to prepare the food on site [at the schools] and distribute them from there, but if a school district is forced to close, we will have to turn to our commissioner.
This facility is scalable for additional capacity if needed, she adds, but she expects its current capacity to be sufficient, at least initially. Meanwhile, the Maschio team must prepare menu options to cover a variety of eventualities.
“Menus are complicated because we have to take into account all the different service scenarios and their logistics, so we have a whole menu planning team that [includes] operations, chefs, dietitians, purchasing/supply and marketing,” says Fragiodakis. “We reviewed menus for all scenarios to ensure we had the correct portion sizes, all required components, etc. for each menu.”
The team developed seven daily menus in a take-out format, a step beyond the norm for a company that focused on operating service lines where students could choose their meal combinations. However, this is the reality of limited student/staff contact and lunchtime crowds.
One possible solution is an online platform the company has previously used to publish its menus, which also has mobile ordering capability that would allow students to pre-order personalized meals.