Missouri schools use cave to store cafeteria food

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced on Thursday an underground cave is the home for Missouri’s Food and Nutrition Services USDA food storage. The cave storage makes Missouri the lowest-cost school commodities distribution system in the country, costing 22 cents for each case of food.

"This cave storage makes it very efficient for dry storage, refrigeration storage and fridge storage, because it kept a constant 60 to 70 degrees," Andy Dudenhoeffer, director of the USDA Food Distribution Program for the State of Missouri, said.

The five-million-square-foot cave is located near Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. The huge complex, called Subtropolis, has more than 1,500 employees. The facility provides space for 50 businesses, and the cave is a former limestone mine that has been built into warehouse space.

"We are the only state in the whole country out of 50 states that store in the cave. We're number one as far as cost efficiency goals on delivery, storage and handling across the country," Dudenhoeffer said.

Dudenhoeffer said all the schools in Missouri that participate the National School Lunch program can store the food there, and there are about 750 to 800 schools in Missouri are participating this program.

"I think the cave's a great idea if they provide meals and they save tax payer's money because it's a cheaper cost to store items there. They are still getting a safe nutritious meal in the school system," Anna Hosier, a parent of two, said.

Hosier also said the only concern she had is whether the distribution of the food is safe and appropriate.

"The food is loaded on to the truck, and it always be a day to deliver to schools. So no school foods is going to be sitting on the truck for more than 10 to 12 hours," Dudenhoeffer said.