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Lunch for 125 High School Students


kbjesq
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I am trying to persuade our local public school administration that it will be cost effective and more nutritious to provide a picnic style lunch to roughly 125 high school students and probably 25 teachers next month. The old standard is Domino's pizza, which they buy for $5/pizza (8 slices ea.), and soda. My review of the nutritional analysis (on Domino's website) tells me that these things are a disaster. The students will be attending an all day field trip, and in my opinion, they need better fuel than Domino's and Coke provides.

I am seeking input on menu ideas and quantities of food needed. The budget is limited and I would like to do as much work as possible the day/night before. I am not a professional cook and while I'm not afraid of the project, I need to be realistic and not try something too time consuming or difficult. I can get parent volunteers to help serving, but it will be served on a Saturday and the school's cafeteria/kitchen is not available. I have to make all the food at my home and transport to the school in coolers. Your thoughts on any aspect of this project would be most welcome!

I came up with the following menu (hoping that it is both simple and broadly appealng) but I'm not married to it, and I'm open to suggestions:

Choice of wrap sandwich: Turkey w/chipotle mayo, Ham w/honey mustard or Veggie w/ranch (is is possible to make the wraps, include veggies, the day before or will they get too soggy?)

Pasta Primavera Salad w/no-mayo dressing (how much would be needed for 150)

Grapes & Mini-Bananas

Brownies & Blondies (quantity?)

Iced Tea & Lemonade & Water

Thanks in advance for any input, including recipes that serve 150! I'm going to keep track of this project, cost and timewise, and hopefully if it is a success, it will encourage other schools in our area to consider providing healthy food to our kids at these events instead of always going for the pizza/coke routine.

KBJ

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I think your cause is a noble one even though some of the kids might miss the Domino's!

I think your wraps will be OK made the day before, but less soggy if you can put the wet condiments out in bowls for people to add when they eat them.

I've found with side salads that planning on about 1/4 pound per person is usually enough. Some eat a little more, some don't eat any. Remember that 1 pound of dry pasta will make a good bit more than that when it's cooked.

Probably one brownie per person is enough. Again some won't eat any (high school girls watch their weight!) As an aside, one of the funniest stories I've heard lately was told by a 16 year old girl that I was driving back to boarding school. She had just switched schools and I asked what was hard about that. She said that for the first week of the semester, none of the girls would eat much at the dining hall. No one wanted to be the first to chow down in front of the others. She said she was starving. After a week or so everyone relaxed and it was OK to have a burger or a piece of pizza. Her description of all the girls eyeing each other was really amusing.

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Domino's is awful. Fight the system.

With that said, there may be food safety liability issues to consider. Generally, however, schools will let bake sales and picnics slide. Also, make sure your lemonade and tea don't suck. Too many picnics and outdoor banquets are ruined with shitty powdered beverages.

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Having worked as a chef for a sorority (girls only a couple years older than the teens you're talking about), I feel confident in saying that you should make MORE than one bar cookie per person--perhaps 1.3 per person is a better number. Even girls on a diet will eat one when they think nobody is looking, or will choose one as their entire lunch. And boys will want more than 1 of everything!

Have you ever prepared food for this many people before? Do you have access to a commercial kitchen to use for prep even if not on the final day? Where are you going to store all these ingredients--especially cold ones? I don't want to be a naysayer, but this is a HUGE job that you are talking about with the menu you suggest for a home cook. Trying to boil that much pasta on a home stove with the 1-gal stockpot most folks have in their home pot rack alone will be a nightmare, but if you can borrow a 5gal pot and have a high BTU burner on your stove, it's not too bad.

I do think you should do everything but sandwiches before the day of the event--wraps get soggy fast. Bake off and freeze the desserts on weekends before the event--cut and wrap, then pull out to defrost the night before. Make pasta dressing and condiments early in the week. Are you planning to roast fresh turkey? If so, roast, slice and freeze well in advance and then pull out to defrost a few days beforehand (they take longer to defrost in the fridge--the bar cookies can defrost on the counter).

On the morning of the event, you can set up the sandwiches in assembly line fashion--a few minutes of planning makes it a lot easier. Also, toss the pasta with the veg and the dressing right before you head out the door--a vinegar dressing (which I assume you mean by no-mayo) will wilt and discolor your veg.

A job like this is pretty simple for me, but when I was first starting out it would have been a big problem. I just want to ensure you know what you're getting into. I don't think I could execute your entire menu without assistance in the day-before and morning-of timeframe you're talking about--not with fresh roasted turkey and homemade bar cookies, anyway. And I'm a professional.

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Too many picnics and outdoor banquets are ruined with shitty powdered beverages.

Amen to that. I was planning on making flavored iced tea (unsweetened). The lemonade is going to be tougher, but that was specifically requested by the teacher in charge of the field trip. I've never made that from scratch and with the price of lemons - I saw them for 75 cents each the other day - I think it might be cost prohibitive (unless I can use bottled lemon juice).

I'm not really worried about food safety, in terms of spoilage, since I will have the food refrigerated at my house until ready to serve. It is a 5 minute drive to the school and I will keep the food in coolers. Now, if I get a bad load of sliced turkey from Costco, that's a different story but hopefully that will not occur.

Anyway, if any of you have any ideas about recipes or quantities, I would be grateful to hear them. I'm assuming 1 sandwich wrap per person, knowing that some people will only eat 1/2 and some others might eat 1 and 1/2. With regard to pasta salad (or something similar), I guess that 4 oz. pp is standard. But how much uncooked pasta would I have to start with to yield enough to feed approx. 150 people? Is there a good website with large quantity recipes?

KBJ

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On the morning of the event, you can set up the sandwiches in assembly line fashion--a few minutes of planning makes it a lot easier. Also, toss the pasta with the veg and the dressing right before you head out the door--a vinegar dressing (which I assume you mean by no-mayo) will wilt and discolor your veg.

A job like this is pretty simple for me, but when I was first starting out it would have been a big problem. I just want to ensure you know what you're getting into. I don't think I could execute your entire menu without assistance in the day-before and morning-of timeframe you're talking about--not with fresh roasted turkey and homemade bar cookies, anyway. And I'm a professional.

Thanks very much for your response. Your statements are quite valid - realistically, I am not going to be able to do fresh roasted turkey or ham (cost and time prohibitive). Also, I'm pretty confident that I can delegate the baking to another set of parents who already do a lot of baking for this group. So I cross baking off my list.

What I'm left with is doing a pasta salad (maybe a fruit salad, too?) plus sandwich wraps for 150 people. I have a six burner Bluestar cooktop (22k BTUs in front), one 20 qt SS stockpot (I'm planning to buy another at our restaurant supply store), 3 big refrigerator/freezers, 3 large sinks, and a decent-sized kitchen with a lot of counter/workspace. It's not a regular home kitchen (I do have a steam oven, dual convections, etc) but it's certainly not a commercial kitchen either. So I was planning on doing just as you suggest, an assembly line of sandwiches. I am worried about doing them the night or day before. It sounds like what I need to do is get a couple of the responsible kids over here, early that morning, and we set up an assembly line to do the last minute prep. If I can make the salads the day before, keep them in those large rectangular food storage containers in the fridge, and dress them at the last minute, it would be do-able. The drinks I can do the day before, as well.

I don't have any professional training but had a job in college cooking hot lunch for 60, I also cook big dinners for 30+ all the time, and most important, I'm not caving in to Domino's!!! Not only is the food devoid of nutrients, it tastes and looks disgusting IMHO. Also, as far as the kids missing it . . . not to worry. This all-day field trip also includes dinner . . . at a pizza restaurant! Thanks again for the input.

KBJ

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Report back!

I find once a few people get talking-lots of people are in agreement when it comes to changes from standard pizza and soda to something more creative. 

Jennifer

I intend to report back, hopefully with pictures and details (cost, time investment, etc). The challenge that I've issued to myself is to provide a better lunch for the same or less money than would be paid for the crappy pizza and soda option. I've got three weeks to figure out how to do it.

KBJ

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Re: beverages--I used to work at a place that made "fresh" lemonade with that real lemon bottled stuff. I personally thought it sucked, but the customers all loved it. For one gallon we used 2 cups of sugar dissolved in 2 cups of hot water. Add 2 cups of lemon juice and a sprig of mint and then fill the rest of the gallon jug with cold water. As I said, I didn't like it, but most people did. As for iced tea, see if you can get gallon tea bags at costco, otherwise 12 teabags for a gallon is about right, I think.

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Re: beverages--I used to work at a place that made "fresh" lemonade with that real lemon bottled stuff. I personally thought it sucked, but the customers all loved it.

Thanks for the recipe and info. Compared to the powdered crap, even lemonade made from bottled juice has got to be an improvement. I'm going to experiment this weekend with a few things. I'm a fan of essential oils and I have a big bottle of lemon oil from Boyajian. I'm wondering if some of this can be incorporated. The flavor is off the charts.

KBJ

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I've done several pasta dishes for large events before and what I generally find is that when the pasta dish is part of several others (as opposed to the main course), about 1 ounce of dried pasta per portion is about appropriate. Once you've cooked the pasta, added in your vegetables and dressing, that 1 ounce of dried pasta will turn into more like 3-4 ounces of pasta salad.

So, for 150, that would equate to about 9.375 pounds of dried pasta. Go with 10 pounds and you'll have extra. Normally when I make pasta salad, I do a basic balsamic vinaigrette with a little Dijon mustard in there to help emulsify the dressing. Plus it adds a nice zing. And there's no worry of the mayo issue.

As for fruit salad, here is a favorite of mine that I'm constantly being asked to bring to parties over the summertime:

This feeds 12-15 adults, so you can scale it up appropriately

2 quarts strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced

5-6 peaches/mangoes/nectarines/plums, cut into wedges

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Honey to taste

Cointreau/Grand Mariner to taste (replace this with freshly squeezed OJ to eliminate the alcohol)

Gentle toss the fruit with the vanilla bean, honey, and liqueur (or OJ). I like to make this the day before and let the flavors really permeate. As for the fruit, you could really use just about anything that is seasonal. I would stick with fruit that is going to hold it's shape reasonably well though.

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Hi

When I was in catering I used to do wraps all the time. We used cream cheese not may mixed with something else (cranberry cream cheese for turkey wraps, plain for veggie wraps and honey dijon for ham wraps). It didn't slime out like mayo. Chiffonade your lettuce--I like using romaine or baby spinach. Canned roasted red peppers are great for color. The most important thing was making the wraps the night before and wrapping them in foil so they stayed together---take them out of the foil, slice and serve. Also, wen cooking for HS students I always estimated 1.5 wraps per kid and was usually dead on. Good luck. Also a peach green tea is a great drink...healthy and yummy. :biggrin:

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Hi

When I was in catering I used to do wraps all the time.  We used cream cheese not may mixed with something else (cranberry cream cheese for turkey wraps, plain for veggie wraps and honey dijon for ham wraps).  It didn't slime out like mayo.  Chiffonade your lettuce--I like using romaine or baby spinach.  Canned roasted red peppers are great for color.  The most important thing was making the wraps the night before and wrapping them in foil so they stayed together---take them out of the foil, slice and serve.  Also, wen cooking for HS students I always estimated 1.5 wraps per kid and was usually dead on.  Good luck.  Also a peach green tea is a great drink...healthy and yummy. :biggrin:

Thank you for the flavored cream cheese idea. I can do a chipotle cream cheese for the turkey, a honey-mustard for the ham, and a garlic-herb for the veggie. Since the meal will be served buffet style, the kids can order one of the three wraps, the server/parent can grab it, slice in half, hand the kid the plate and then they are off to the salad station. The green tea idea is also excellent - all the kids that I know are into green tea now. I don't suppose you have a recipe for iced green tea for a crowd? I had resigned myself to the Lipton cold water tea bags (gallon size). But I'm always open to other ideas. I could easily do both. I'm trying to show these folks that the pizza/soda option is not the only thing that works!!! Thanks again for your comments. PS I'm still in the market for a pasta salad recipe for 150.

KBJ

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Hi

Just a few more thoughts on this....Contact your local food wholesaler (Food Service of America or Sysco perhaps) and see if they have large bag green iced tea. You

will save time and $$$ this way.

Costco or Sams is your friend when it comes to large block cream cheese--let it soften a bit then add mix ins and beat with a hand blender or your stand mixer.

Unwrap and slice the wraps PRE SERVING or your buffet is going to be painfully slow--Anything more than 50 people needs to be a double sided buffet or else it will be slower than Christmas on Qualuudes. :angry:

Put your salad(s) before your proteins....the eye is bigger than the stomach but fortunatly plate size is limited.

Put all desserts, beverages and utensils at the end of the buffet/serving line.

Allrecipes.com is a fabulous site that lets you scale to the number of servings needed. Most salads scale quite well.

Rice salad is another cheap option and would give you some variety.

LABEL EVERYTHING on the buffet ie "Sliced breast of Turkey wraps with Chipolte cream cheese and crisp romaine lettuce"--adjectives are your friend here---let your creative writer out! Plus you will avoid having your volunteers explain this to at least every other person in line.

If your tortillas are a little dry sandwich a few between damp paper towels and nuke for 10-15 secs.

IDENTIFY any food allergies or special dietary needs before hand. The day of the event is not the time to find out little Billy is allergic to the color green and his religion prohibits him from eating any food that starts with vowel. :wacko:

Have one chocolate and one non chocolate desert option available in a 2/3 choc to 1/3 not ratio. (As hard as I find it to believe there are people who do not like chocolate.)

This is one recipe I dug out of my archives (ie something that actually survived Hurrican Katrina) that is a good basic pasta salad. You can vary the amount of mixed in items and also make your own basalmic vinagrette if you like. It works for 150.

Please NOTE, I know this is not haute cusine but it is fairly economical and you can add/delete items as you see fit---I used to add chopped green onions, use frozen tri colored beppers, omit the tomatoes as I or my food budget saw fit.

16 (16 ounce) packages uncooked spiral pasta

3 bags thinly sliced carrots

4 bunches celery, chopped, leaves also chopped and included

8 cups chopped green bell pepper (or buy the frozen tri color pepper mix--4 bags)

5 cans sliced olives or 1 #10 large can drained

6 cups cherry tomatoes sliced

4 large onions, diced

11 bottles Italian-style salad dressing (or get the large gallons at Costo/Sams--2 gallons. should do it)

4 cups grated Parmesan cheese.

Dried Parsley for color and garnish

Boil Pasta, drain, rinse in cold water to cool, mix in all ingrediensts, add salt pepper and italian seasoning to taste.

I always added a little extra oil & basalmic vinager...just to taste...

Hope this helps and Keep me posted!

Molly Bloom :smile:

Edited because I can cook, not type.

Edited by mollybloom1109 (log)
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  • 8 years later...

I just realized that I never reported back on this topic. Unfortunately it's almost 10 years later (!) but that first buffet luncheon for 125 high school students was a smashing success and came in under budget at approximately $1.25 per student. No more Domino's!

Even the students agreed and requested no more Dominos pizza. :)

In the ensuing 4 years that my child was in high school, I had the opportunity to refine my recipes, techniques and strategies. Towards the end of her last year, I had the food cost down to around $1 per student and all of the students were very happy and excited about food.

By then I was also serving hot foods, such as baked pasta dishes and I expanded my salad offerings to  include a variety of potato, pasta, mixed vegetable and even fruit  salads. (Obviously that cost did not include my time, I was a volunteer). 

Unfortunately once my student graduated,  there were no other parents who were willing or able to pick up the reins. 

I handled all of the food prep for one more year after my student graduated but that was the end of it. As far as I know they are back to ordering Dominos pizza and soda.

But just for the record, let it be known that it can be done, it was not all that hard, it just takes a lot of planning. I created spreadsheets for each and every meal using Microsoft Excel, and calculated the cost of the food items times the quantity needed along with other items such as paper goods. I would submit these budgets in advance for approval.

It is unfortunate that no one else was willing or able to take over,  because I was very proud of what I had accomplished and the students certainly enjoyed the homemade food vs getting Dominos pizza and coke all the time.  

Even now, I occasionally get an email or a Facebook message from one of the students who enjoyed one of these meals and I treasure those messages! 

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14 minutes ago, gfweb said:

I'd love to see the menus you worked out.

 

I'd bet smaller private schools like the one my kids went to would be interested in this approach.

I'll be glad to send you my excel spreadsheets if you send me a PM with your email address. I have photos somewhere of many of the meals &  I'll post them later this week. I'm working three 12+ hour shifts starting tomorrow but I will send them.  I just have to do a bit of searching on my computer to locate the files. Also, I highly recommend "Food for Fifty" which you can buy used for cheap on Amazon. The recipes aren't the greatest (in general)  but it really helps with planning portions and prep &  has some useful serving tips and food safety information. 

BTW I was able to negotiate substantial discounts from a local produce market, buying cases of fresh produce, once I explained that this was for public school kids. Several local supermarkets also gave me forms to fill out (not terribly complicated) and in response, they sent me gift cards ranging from $25 to $250!

I was rather devastated to see "my program" end due to lack of interest on the part of the other parents. I worked full-time running my own business and was a single mom. If I could do it,  I feel that others could as well. I am not a food professional, but I can read. Alas, I don't get to make the rules and to be honest it's rather obvious that most parents are unconcerned about their children's diet -  at least where I live. 

I still remember one time making roasted ratatouille for 200 students. I was nervous that they would not want to try this unfamiliar food. To my surprise and delight, the students loved it and actually requested that I make it again and again. (I could only make it when the local produce market was able to give me a really good deal on the basic ingredients, however.) 

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Wow, I really admire you for taking this on and making it work! I'd love to see more pics if you have them and hear more about some of your fave meals. (I don't need the spreadsheet, I don't ever plan on doing this, just enjoy hearing about some more details if possible.)  :)

 

 

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6 minutes ago, FauxPas said:

Wow, I really admire you for taking this on and making it work! I'd love to see more pics if you have them and hear more about some of your fave meals. (I don't need the spreadsheet, I don't ever plan on doing this, just enjoy hearing about some more details if possible.)  :)

 

 

I'll try to find them later this week when I have more time to look :)

 

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