The Newburgh Enlarged City School District

Newburgh, New York

Newburgh Enlarged City

“We decided we wanted to go all-in.” Caitlin Lazarski, director of school nutrition at Newburgh Enlarged City School District and president elect of the New York School Nutrition Association, was tasked with the tall order of reenergizing an expansive school district comprised of 11,000 students and 14 buildings. The cafeterias were original to the buildings and contained serving lines with non-functioning pieces. It was time for a complete overhaul.

Newburgh is a “big breakfast district” and is community eligible, according to Lazarski.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for school districts in low-income areas, funded by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. The CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications.

Although the project was in the works before the onset of COVID-19, the pandemic threw a loop in planning, and the funds that had been set aside for the revamp of the district’s cafeteria systems were severely depleted.

Lazarski is proud of the way that her team pivoted to provide curbside pickup meals, at its high point providing 5,000 weekly meal pickups, each of which included seven full days of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Both employees and community members rallied to the task at hand and worked steadily to help replenish the fund balance. Soon the sum surpassed what had been available pre-pandemic.

The transformation

“The greatest challenge was the sheer size of the project,” said Adam Kaufman, principal of Kaufmann & Associates, who, along with his sons Daniel and Bradley, worked closely with Lazarski from the early planning stages through the installation.

Each of the 14 schools, some with multiple cafeterias, needed custom measurement before concepting could begin. “Caitlin really knew what she wanted and had a clear vision,” said Kaufman, “and we were not going to stop until her expectations were exceeded.”

LTI’s graphics package for the project was a considerable undertaking but was met with cutting-edge design. School colors and mascot murals took a formerly drab and institutional space and transformed it into a vibrant gathering place, complete with a turf wall where students could gather and take selfies with a themed backdrop.

The murals and paintings were customized according to each cafeteria’s age group. For the elementary cafeteria, for example, the Newburgh “Goldback” mascot was depicted as a fledgling eaglet, while the high school design illustrated the fierce and full-grown eagle seen at high school sporting events.

LTI installed new counters with its patented QuickSwitch technology. “The wells needed to change every day with school menus,” said Kaufman. “Having the technology to serve hot next to cold or frozen, and switch that out within an hour, provides optimal menu flexibility, as well as a benefit from a food safety standpoint.”

In the elementary cafeterias, two-tier frost tops were implemented to drop the height of the serving counter down so that younger students could easily reach food selections and vertically provide two layers of food choices.

Working with LTI

“The team from LTI was wonderful!” said Lazarski. “They were fun to be around and very thorough in their installations. They truly made sure everything was perfect for us, and they worked through obstacles like rapidly changing costs of materials to help us trim expenses where we could.”

The Newburgh staff loved to see how their hard work during the pandemic was reinvested in quality cafeterias with modern and customized equipment; it was a morale boost for them.

“One of our employees said the finished cafeteria with LED lighting reminded her of a beautiful cruise ship servery, with the contemporary serving lines and modern glass design accentuated by LED lighting.”

Newburgh Expanded City School District has five additional schools scheduled for installation over the summer of 2022, and three for the summer of 2023.

Parting advice

“If you are thinking about a cafeteria overhaul, consider fully investing in a quality serving line with all the bells and whistles,” said Lazarski. “Don’t limit yourself too much during the design process. Think big first, and then scale back where needed to meet your budget.”

Before renovation