Dave Maxwell
Pahranagat Valley Elementary students line up for lunch. The school district has implemented a new lunch program which is providing students with “better quality and a better quantity of food.”

School lunches in the Lincoln County School District have not been a source of pride in the past few years. Teachers, students, and administrators openly complained and/or admitted what was being received from the Clark County School District was “not of good quality or quantity.”

A change was needed, said Lincoln County School District Food Services Coordinator and Pahranagat Valley Elementary School Principal Brian Higbee, and they made it, deciding to go out on their own and prepare their own meals.

Higbee explained, “We had been with Clark County primarily because of the cost. They serve so many students each day that we were able to kind of piggyback with their program and save us some money.”

But over time it was realized that a number of the portions per serving, “just wasn’t enough for our students, (referring countywide),” he said, “and the quality wasn’t there either. We saw a downward trend happen in the number of students we fed each day. They didn’t like the food and didn’t want to eat. Our kitchen managers, Tracey Weidman in Panaca and Rachel Hosier in Alamo, felt their hands were tied. We knew we had to make some changes.”

In discussions with School Superintendent Pam Teel, the district decided to not use the Clark County School District program anymore and go with SYSCO, from their large Las Vegas facility.

Hosier orders the food each week, prepares a menu five weeks at a time for the entire county, has it checked by a licensed dietician, and has the supplies delivered to the school kitchens in Alamo and Panaca.

Higbee said the food is “cooked on site in our own kitchens, like homemade, the best we can do. It’s not Clark County anymore.”

He added, “I think what the kids are going to see and what the public is going to see is a lot better, higher-quality food, coming out of the lunchrooms. We’re really excited about that.”

He added, “Now I believe we are going to see an upward trend and a positive perception of the food.” He continued, “Now, with SYSCO, we can have hot meals and a much greater variety.”

Hosier said, “I feel so much better about actually cooking and making things from scratch again. We can now even offer a different salad bar each day for K-12.”

The school district had been with SYSCO before, Higbee said, “and they do offer quality food for whatever places they are preparing for. Our local people, Tracey, Rachel, Lisa-Lytle Hunt, and May Nelson, are really good at what they do and if you give them quality supplies they are going to put a really good product out. The bottom line is, we want those meal counts to come up, which we have seen in just the past couple of weeks, and received lots of positive comments on social media and other sites on how good the food is and more options to choose from.”

He explained there are certain U.S.D.Standards that do have to be met, but some of the regulations have been relaxed under the new presidential administration and it makes it somewhat easier for the kitchen to prepare meals the kids will like.

To get the word out to the parents, students, and the public about the change, Higbee said, “We want to invite the public to come, too. We want parents, grandparents, senior citizens, etc., to come. We’re going to have days, maybe once a month, when it is ‘Bring a Buddy to Lunch.’ Come in and try it.”

Lunch price for adults is $3.75 per person and monthly menus are available. “A good bang for the buck,” he said.

All a person is asked to do is call the secretary at your child’s school in the morning and let them know you plan to come and the kitchen can prepare a bit extra. Lunch hour at Pahranagat Valley High is 11 a.m, but it might be easier to adults to go at 11:30.”

The school district also offers a reduced lunch rate or free lunch for students of families who qualify. Financial Services director Teri Lee, at the district office in Panaca, said a family just needs to sign up, which can be done online at www.lcsdnv.com and print out the form, or by getting an application from the school secretary.

She said, “One of the ways the school district receives much of our grant funding from the state for various services at the schools is based on the number of kids signed up for the free and reduced lunch program. The lower price helps the parents know the student is getting a nutritious meal during the day, both at breakfast and lunch. It can be of great benefit to low-income families, as well as helping the school district.”