The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

The official student news site of Dougherty Valley High School.

The Wildcat Tribune

Journey to the lunch line

Every day around 1,500 DVHS students enter the lunch line and receive a free, school-provided lunch. Options range from Caesar Salads to 100% beef steak burgers.

But students only experience the very end of this journey of food. The real story starts in local farms, traveling through DVHS’s two refrigerators, and its sparkling school kitchen, before ending up on the tables where students wait to collect their food for the day. 

School Student Nutritionist Stephanie Curry plays a vital role in ensuring the food reaches the table. 

A day on the job involves waking up at 4:30 a.m, and making it to school by 6 am. Curry, along with the school chef starts the day by preparing the kitchen; a multifaceted task that involves sanitizing workstations, turning up warmers, and creating the production record for the day.

The cook reads over the recipes and starts preparing his ingredients.

The rest of the kitchen staff arrive between 7:30 and 9:45, prepared to cook, warm, package, and serve the day’s meals, in addition to preparing ingredients for meals the next day.  Of this process, the most time consuming step is packaging, which, between all the kitchen staff, can take up to an hour. 

Fresh lunches are served to DVHS students. (Neetra Chakraborty)

Curry is also in charge of the finer details; calculating meal costs, ordering inventory, and organizing the menu for the week. 

“For some of our items like our chili, for example, we’re working with raw ingredients like raw ground beef, and so that’s a little more complex…say for example, we do 400 Chili, we have to calculate how many seasonings we need, how many pounds of ground beef we’re going to use, how many pounds of onions, bell peppers, things like that. There’s a lot of math that goes into the equation,” Curry said. 

In fact, most meals served for lunch at DVHS are hand-cooked and hand-packaged. Chicken curry with brown rice, the aforementioned chili, and a new focaccia pizza, are some of the many meals at DVHS that are cooked from scratch.

The quality of the school lunches, however, goes beyond the kitchen. Kitchen staff at DV put a lot of value on fresh and locally bought ingredients.

“For our produce, we partner with a family owned business and local farm Daylight Foods…I’ve met the owner at a conference and he was a really nice guy. It [The farm] has been passed down from generation to generation,” Curry said. 

For meats, DVHS partners with Cream Co. Meats, a meat supplier based in Oakland. 

“They have Kobe beef, which is the finest beef, it’s really expensive,” Curry said. “And they partner with really nice restaurants. So we get good quality ingredients from top tier vendors.”

Despite the fresh and locally sourced ingredients, and the thought put behind the meal prep, student reactions vary when the meals are finally served to them. The kitchen staff gauge their responses based on the amount of meals left over after every lunch period. Clear favorites include spicy chicken sandwiches, pizza, and Bosco sticks. Black bean burgers, on the contrary, are quite disliked.

Each morning involves precisely preparing ingredients for school lunches.

“I’ve heard kids say that they’re really dry…but they use the other word,” Curry joked. 

Despite what many students think, student opinion is taken into consideration when it comes to school lunches. Though Curry herself is not directly in charge of creating recipes, she sends student feedback to her director, who then adds and changes recipes as needed. 

“I definitely offer feedback and say, ‘Hey, the kids are not too happy with this. I think they can tell by the waste, and how much is left over,” Curry commented. 

Curry encourages students to immerse themselves further in the production of the school lunches. If students would truly like to witness the journey from ingredient to fully packed school lunch, they are always welcome to step behind the lunch line and into the kitchen. DVHS’s kitchen doors will always be open.

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About the Contributor
Neetra Chakraborty
Neetra Chakraborty, Art & Graphics Editor
Neetra has done journalism since her freshmen year and the Tribune feels like a home to her after two years. This year, she wants to write more and expand her reach, including trying multimedia and other genres of journalism she hasn't tried before. An interesting fact about her is that she has lived in the U.S., India, and Japan. If she could be anyone in the Tribune, she would be Shreya A. because she's such a girlboss and Neetra admires her a lot.

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