New Sampson G. Smith School Cafeteria Unveiled To Cheers From Students

School faculty and staff and Board of Education representatives react after school board president Ed Potosnak cut the ribbon on the renovated Sampson G. Smith School cafeteria.

Students, faculty and staff cheered Nov. 1 as a blue ribbon was cut at the entrance of the newly renovated Sampson G. Smith School’s cafeteria.

The approximately $850,000 project is another step toward parity between what next school year will be the two township middle schools, a district official said.

Like the Franklin Middle School cafeteria, Sampson’s now features an “open” look, with several stations for “grab-and-go” food, plus other improvements to the 50-year-old food service area.

“There were walls separating the three serving areas, we opened it up,” said Margaret DeBlasi, the district’s director of food and nutrition. “The serving area is on one central location, so we can see the students, we can see the food, we can see the staff so we can make sure everything is replenished, we can make sure the kids have everything they need on the serving line. It’s kind of hard to do that looking in three separate rooms.”

The SGS menu is now identical to that of Franklin Middle School, in anticipation of when Sampson will be the district’s second middle school.

“We have new equipment, too, so it’s easier to keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold because in the prior setup we didn’t have refrigeration on the serving lines, so we had to put things in and out of the refrigerator before and after every lunch period, but now we have refrigeration right on the serving line, so the sandwiches and fruits are going to stay nice and cold,” she said. “And it’s nicely displayed also, because as everybody knows, you eat with your eyes first.”

“Everything now has more room and a better way to display the food, so it looks more appetizing for the students,” DeBlasi said. “It has a feel of maybe a college-type dining area.”

The menu has also been upgraded from the elementary school menu to that of the middle school, she said.

“We have grab-and-go items, different kinds of deli sandwiches, grab-and-go salads,” she said. “We also have everyday grab-and-go chicken patties and cheeseburgers, which is what the older kids like, and it’s all child-nutrition approved, we’re not frying anything, everything’s on whole grain buns and it’s got lower fat. But it appeals more to this age group.”

While they can pick some fruits and vegetables, elementary school students are served their meals by cafeteria staff, DeBlasi said.

New refrigeration and heating elements were added to the cafeteria’s food line.

DeBlasi said the decision to upgrade the Sampson cafeteria was made after renovations were made to the middle school cafeteria.

“We took a look at the kitchen, we said this is 50 years old, we can’t function with this kitchen moving forward, it was three separate compartments, you couldn’t look into the room and see what was going on in the whole kitchen,” she said. “The equipment was outdated. So after the success of the renovation of the middle school, we said hey, why don’t we do the same renovation to Sampson, because it’s going to be a middle school and it wouldn’t be fair to the kids to have an old cafeteria in one middle school and a brand new cafeteria in the other.”

Funding came partly from the Food Service Department and partly from the Board of Education budget, she said.

Evelyn Rutledge, the school principal, said the students were excited about the new cafeteria.

“I know how excited they  are to really be treated like big boys and girls and go through a line and select their dishes,” she said.

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