While the national debate on school nutrition requirements continues, one thing is certain: the importance of healthy meals for students. Many students depend on school prepared meals for lunch and increasingly breakfast, snacks and dinner.
For over 20 years, RATIONAL has worked with schools and school districts across the country to ensure foodservice operations meet federal requirements, maximize budgets, and make meals that increase lunch and breakfast program participation.
When serving food to thousands of students, it’s hard to create quality meals at scale, especially ensuring that everything is evenly cooked and delicious. Often, school meals can be boring and bland due to the high production requirements. Luckily, RATIONAL products make it a lot easier for schools to cook innovative and simple meals for students. These products take the pressure off of kitchen staff and require even less personnel, while simultaneously producing consistent results.
“Whenever we have a RATIONAL oven ... everything goes into the RATIONAL,” said Sheri Nielsen, Operations Manager for the Santa Clara Unified School District. This district prepares food farm-to-table and owns an 11-acre farm in Sunnyvale. About 50% of their food is cooked from scratch.
Today, 14 kitchens in the district are equipped with 32 RATIONAL combi ovens. “The RATIONAL helps us serve a better product ... after working with it, I couldn’t think of using any oven other than a RATIONAL,” said Chef Bob, Culinary Supervisor for the Santa Clara Unified School District.
Nielsen remembers when the district‘s first RATIONAL combi arrived in 2009. “The first thing we cooked was grilled cheese. I was amazed how you could get the color on both sides just like you get it off the grill, and it only took three to four minutes. It was quick – you could put six trays into the oven and cook about 150 grilled cheese sandwiches at the same time.”
The students in the Madera Unified School District also have a farm-to-table program where they are served breakfast and lunch with local ingredients prepared in RATIONAL products. On a regular day, the district serves 23,000-24,000 student meals with 15 RATIONAL combi ovens and one iVario across seven kitchens.
“The quality of food that we can produce is far better,” said Brian Chiarito, Director of Child Nutrition for the Madera Unified School District. “The time savings when it comes to cooking and cleaning gives us more time for creativity when it comes to the menu,” he added. “We can focus on better products for the kids, as opposed to cleaning ovens.”
“In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to use it properly. But after a month, I fell in love with it,” said Milka Marijanovic, Hot Food Production Lead at Evanston Township High School.
Evanston Township High School is a public school situated in the northern suburbs of Chicago that serves more than 3,000 meals daily to students and staff. The kitchen also provides catered meals for special events like board meeting dinners, athletic banquets, and awards ceremonies.
The menus reflect Evanston’s diverse population – vegetarian, Italian, Latino, Indian – and the school’s kitchen focuses on producing delicious, high-volume items like pasta, sauces, rice, vegetables, and pizza.
“I am very happy with how the products come out using RATIONAL. You don’t have to worry about the food burning, you can control it easily, and you can do multiple things while food is being cooked,” she said. “It’s safe and helpful, and the end result is much better.”
K-12 foodservice professionals have one of the toughest tasks – providing healthy school meals that appeal to students on an incredibly tight budget. Many are finding inventive ways to do this.Keeping kids healthy for less.
Today, 14 kitchens in the Santa Clara Unified School District are equipped with 32 RATIONAL combi ovens. Nielsen, Chef Bob, and their culinary team attributes a notable increase in labor savings and food quality to RATIONAL. The cooking speed, overnight cooking, and self-cleaning function save time, and the finished products retain moisture, cook more evenly, shrink less, and experience no flavor transfer.Read how.
A lunchroom favorite that kids always enjoy.Download recipe here.