Home-cooked meals served from the heart of LPS kitchens

Three thousand, two hundred forty is the number of cinnamon rolls that each Lincoln Public Schools central kitchen whips up each time it's on the lunch menu. 

“I like baking. That’s what I enjoy,” Veronica Perez said.  

Perez is the head baker at the Northeast High School’s central kitchen. She’s been working at LNE for more than a decade. Perez and her team are one part of seven LPS central kitchen crews. They are responsible for crafting homemade meals like cinnamon rolls, chili, and spaghetti meat sauce for nearby elementary schools finishing kitchens. Homemade meals cut down on calories for LPS students and time for cafeteria staff. 

“There is not a huge margin in child nutrition. You have to be efficient with what you do and we also want to have standardization of products throughout the school district. Anywhere you go, we want the product to be the same. That’s our goal,”  LPS Nutrition Services Director Andrew Ashelford said. 

LPS has utilized central kitchens for more than 15 years. Each one requires about a dozen staff and specialized equipment. Workers also needed specialized training. This can all add up quickly if replicated at each school. LPS slices costs by using the central kitchen model.  For example, Nutrition Services saves approximately $2,000 in labor each time cinnamon rolls are made by utilizing the central locations. 

“It allows us to be in control of our finances and do everything we can to keep the cost low for each student and families that we serve. Also, the equipment is expensive, and we don’t have to have specialized equipment at every school. That’s a cost savings too,” Ashelford said. 

LPS central kitchens fulfill a bigger mission – feeding eager minds and bellies. 

“They may not get another good solid meal. So if it’s something they’ll like and something you know they’ll eat, then that’s important to make sure they get it at least once,” Northeast Nutrition Services worker Andrea Hanson said. 

LPS currently has central kitchens at three high schools (North Star, Northeast and Southwest) and four middle schools (Scott, Lux, Moore and Schoo).  Northwest and Standing Bear high schools will join the lineup soon. 

Take a look at the Northeast central kitchen team in action below. 

Published: November 29, 2022, Updated: November 29, 2022

LNE central kitchen bakers make cinnamon rolls for nearby elementary schools.