A massive tower of pizza awaits more mouths to feed than ever before in the Mesa Unified School District.
A new closed-campus policy means at least 2,500 more high school students are expected to bite into food supplied by the district.
And districtwide enrollment is expected to grow by about 150 students.
Lunchtime fare is stored at the district’s distribution and warehouse center at Main Street and Alma School Road before making its way to schools.
Already filling to the brim with food, the 45,000-squarefoot facility with shelves 30 feet high has only been collecting food for about a week as truck after truck pulls in with french fries, plates, water and chicken nuggets.
Generally the food goes out as quickly as it comes in — for freshness as well as space considerations.
With 74,000 students in Mesa district schools and 68,000 meals served each day last year — including a handful of small private and charter schools that hire the district to cook — the increase in students will fill the warehouse with food.
Warehouse manager Joe Sieczkowski is confident it won’t be a problem to manage.
The warehouse two years ago expanded its freezer to fit the daily menu specials.
"We’re kind of tight and limited on space," he said. "Four hundred cases of pizza takes up quite a bit of room."
Pizza is expected to become more popular as a lunch item. But with the district already ordering 400 72-serving cases of pizza, along with about 200 cases of chicken, the increase in students will make for limited space in the sizable warehouse.
Last year, the district purchased 6,000 cases of water; 800 cases of plastic foam meal trays arrive weekly. As many as 700 cases of juices are used every morning for breakfast.
With the expected increase in food sales would come $900,000 more in revenue.
However, costs and additional employees will mean only about $5,000 in profit, said Loretta Zullo, director of food and nutrition services.
Most high schools will have two 55-minute lunches, though Mountain View and Red Mountain high schools will offer one 55-minute lunch. Under the new district policy, only students with enough credits to be seniors can leave campus for lunch.
The change is in response to a lunchtime car crash in which two Dobson High School students died.
Mesa Unified School District warehouse stores:
• 410 kinds of dry goods for cooking, baking, desserts and beverages
• 38 types of refrigerated items from condiments to cheese
• 190 frozen products
• 281 kinds of kitchen equipment, from grills to cutlery