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The Complexity of Boxed Meals

As far as coaches and players are concerned, orders for boxed lunches are written down on order forms, submitted to the Athletic Office, and then picked up in the dining hall before departing for games. But how much effort and time does it take to put the meals together?

“It takes a lot of planning and a lot of organization,” said Director of Food Services Florrie Paige.

Two weeks prior to an away game, all of the dining hall’s departments-which include the bakery, salad room, store room, and kitchen-Ms. Paige and Assistant Director of Food Services Mike McCarthy meet to prepare the menu, avoiding meals that have recently been served.

Once all the departments agree on a good meal for the away teams, they create the order forms and give them to Associate Director of Athletics Audrey Armes, who then distributes the forms to the coaches. The coaches and their athletes have one day to choose their meals and return the forms to Mrs. Armes. Sometimes this is done without the players making their specific orders or having any knowledge about the order forms.

Mrs. Armes has one day to gather all of the order forms, put together the total number of meals and snacks that will be needed, and submit it to Interdepartmental Billing Manager Janet Boston who shares it with the rest of the dining hall staff. Mr. McCarthy and the dining hall departments have a few days to order ingredients from vendors and prepare meals.

This period of time between knowing what is needed for the meals and the day they are needed can sometimes be quite hectic. Every vendor has a different delivery date, and sometimes their delivery dates won’t work with the date of the away games. In this case, a different vendor, sometimes with higher prices, must be called. “We want everyone to have enough to eat, enjoy it, and not waste it,” said Mr. McCarthy.

With now only a few days left to complete the boxed meals, the dining hall must work swiftly. If the meal were a meat sandwich, the meat would have to be marinated two days before the due date and cooked one day before the due date, at around the same time that the cookies are being baked. Once all the food is prepared, the dining hall assembles the boxed meals on the morning of the game. Assembly requires putting the sandwiches in the coolers, adding the cookies, snacks, napkins, and condiments, and distributing the water and Powerade.

If the away game happens to take place early in the day and the team needs to leave earlier, the coolers and boxes will be assembled the night before, which means the whole production schedule is pushed back a day. The period of time from planning the creation of the order form to being able to pick up the boxed meal is about ten to twelve days of rigorous work.