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Subway becomes part of local high school lunches

Posted: April 26, 2011 - 9:21pm
Wade Bryson, the owner of Juneau's three local Subway restaurants, stocks a refrigerator at Juneau-Douglas High School as students line up for lunch Tuesday. Bryson has started selling his sandwiches at both high schools in the last couple of weeks.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Wade Bryson, the owner of Juneau's three local Subway restaurants, stocks a refrigerator at Juneau-Douglas High School as students line up for lunch Tuesday. Bryson has started selling his sandwiches at both high schools in the last couple of weeks.

The local Subway franchise has completed a deal with NANA Management Services to get its sandwiches into the high schools.

The restaurant will now be making and selling sandwiches to NANA, which dispenses them to the schools along with its regular foods. They started with Juneau-Douglas High School and expanded a week later to Thunder Mountain High School.

Subway owner Wade Bryson has taken a great interest in getting the product into the schools and has been working on the deal for a few months.

“It was about working with officials to maximize food consumption and eating more and healthier foods,” he explained. “It just always seemed like a good idea, providing stuff students want to eat.”

Offering healthier school lunch options has remained one of his main driving factors in the project, along with improving service speeds.

“The students want faster service,” he said. “They want to get in and out quicker. When they wait in line, it’s eating into their lunch time.”

The school choices include cold sandwiches. Bryson said meats and vegetables, but not cheese, are there for extra healthy options.

“This doesn’t qualify for the free or reduced lunch program but does qualify as another healthy item,” he added.

Bryson has taken an active interest in the progress, saying, “I’ve spent every lunch period in the schools for the last two weeks to figure out what’s working. I’ve learned all kinds of things spending two weeks of lunches there.”

He said he feels the end of the school year is a good time to gauge the successfulness of bringing in the product. He hopes to get everything lined up to provide sandwiches next year.

Bryson said the project has also created an additional job at Subway, which goes along with his plans to increase his workforce.

NANA General Manager Greg Regester said part of the initial interest came from student input requesting more healthy foods. He said the company explored some local vendors and came to an agreement with Subway, adding the franchise met the federal mandates and nutritional requirements for the schools’ healthy and fresh food demands.

NANA has made deli sandwiches before but never with the name brand recognition that this offers, Regester said. He said this is the only franchise brand that’s served in Juneau’s schools since he’s been here.

“I think it’s a perfectly fine option. We’re happy with the service they’ve been providing for us,” he said.

One of the Juneau-Douglas assistant principals, Dale Stanley, has observed its popularity among the students and gotten positive feedback from the staff, including some who have started eating from the cafeteria themselves. He said the inclusion of a franchise at the school has been considered several times over the years, but a deal could never be formalized with a vendor.

Bryson noted it was easier for him to work a deal with NANA than the schools individually.

“I think it’s good having a variety here and having local business involved,” Stanley said. “And I think they’ve hit our concerns like the number of lines and speed of service.”

He said he’s timed lines before that have taken almost 25 minutes, frustrating the students. He and Bryson agreed the lines have moved much more quickly, with some timed at nine minutes.

Thunder Mountain Vice Principal Kathryn Milliron just began observing the service at her school but feels the reaction has been good so far and that it won’t take long for the word of this option to spread. She said students can generally get through the lunch lines in 10 or 15 minutes so time will tell if the addition will affect that.

Having the franchise on school grounds seems to go over well with the students too. Juneau-Douglas sophomores Nicole Neussendorfer and Abbey Wilwert expressed how pleased they are with the addition.

“Before we got Subway, we were worried about school food, there’s always a worry in your mind that there’s nothing good or the food will run out,” said Neussendorfer. “Not with Subway. We’re like ‘there’s Subway.’”

She said the sight of a familiar name is also welcome because the students, with the exception of seniors, cannot leave campus during lunch and haven’t had the chance to find other options until now. She also remarked the lunchroom seems more crowded now and students seem to be buying more.

Wilwert agreed that having another option here is easier for the younger students who can’t leave the campus during lunch, adding she thinks it’s healthier than other school foods.

Thunder Mountain also has a closed campus, except for seniors in good standing.

Bryson is also open to exploring other school programs. He’s currently investigating getting the sandwiches into Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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