Everyone one wants to provide healthier, nutritious and tasty food to school kids, but cost constraints, operational impediments and lack of on-staff culinary expertise hinder many attempts in that direction. As a result, many school foodservice departments still rely on a lot of premade items that, while passing regulatory and nutritional muster, often don’t pass the eye test, especially among customers and, increasingly, their parents.
That is the market that Cognitive Cuisine is striving to fill. The company, started a year ago in Upstate New York, prepares and delivers freshly made, kid-friendly but federally compliant meals to clients.
Those clients currently include a pair of inner city Catholic schools, a charter school and 10 daycare centers, but Co-founder/President Izzy Fattore is eyeing what he sees as an underserved market niche: smaller public school districts.
“My main goal is public schools,” he says. “We’re looking at smaller districts that want to increase the quality of what they serve while meeting federal regulations but don’t have the equipment or expertise, and lack the size to interest the large contract companies.”
Cognitive Cuisine was started by Fattore and a partner (now departed), both working teachers in public schools, with the intent to provide meals to a new charter school that lacked a kitchen and cafeteria.
That fell through because the partners didn’t realize all the hoops vendors to public entities must pass through. “It was a learning experience,” Fattore says.
Cognitive Cuisine then opened its own kitchen, hired a chef, a dietitian and some prep workers and drivers and set out to find clients. The first to sign on was a Catholic high school unhappy with the quality of the meals it was receiving from the local public school kitchen.
The schools get deliveries of bulk food that is held hot in industrial delivery bags, so there’s no need to retherm, while the daycares receive pre-plated lunches. Everything is cooked that morning.
Cognitive Cuisine feeds up to 150 high schoolers up to 40 daycare kids each day. A breakfast service is under consideration at at least one of the current client sites.
The company also extends its services to parents of kids in daycare who wish to get a delivered meal to their child (regulations prohibit the company from extending this service to students in K-12 schools that have an onsite foodservice).