Tyrone Area School Board discusses issues concerning cafeteria program

School lunch programs were a major topic of discussion at the recent meeting of the Tyrone Area School Board.
There were a group of parents who explained some concerns to the board. Parents of current fifth grade students said there were instances when their children didn’t receive their lunch. Parents explained that the reason for their children not receiving lunch was because they had no money in their cafeteria account.
It was explained to the Board that they were not properly informed there was a zero balance in their children’s account. The parent group asked why they were not informed that they needed to deposit money into their children’s account.
School District officials said students are informed when they need to have money deposited in their account. Business Administrator Cathy Peachey said that the School District is in the process of getting a computer program set up where parents can check their children’s cafeteria accounts by logging onto the Parent Connect program, which is the program the School District provides for parents to check their children’s grades from home.
Parents, however, preferred another method, at least until the computer program is up and running. They explained their children are in fifth grade and that in most cases, a 10 or 11-year-old will have too much trouble remembering to inform their parents in the evening what a member of the cafeteria staff told them when they go to lunch at 11 a.m. One parent asked if they could send home a slip of paper to inform them about their child’s account, like they do at Tyrone Area Elementary School. School District officials didn’t say that was possible, but that the District is trying to get the computer program up and running as soon as possible.
Another item discussed had to do with the renewal of the contract with Nutrition, Inc., the company the District contracted to manage their cafeterias.
Officials from Nutrition, Inc. explained to the District that they would change the amount of money they will pay the District for the 2007-08 school year if the District renews the contract with them, which totals at $45,000. This was down from the $60,000 that the School District received from Nutrition, Inc. during the current school year. However, according to District officials, Nutrition, Inc. only offered them $18-19,000 for the 2007-08 school year in previous meetings with Nutrition, Inc. officials. School District officials seemed a little surprised when Nutrition, Inc. changed the figures on their proposal.
When discussing the contract, Board Members had questions on other issues. Board Member Brian Bressler questioned the quality of the food served to the District’s students. He said he talks with several students each day in his business and talked with the 10th grade class with other School Board Members earlier this year. The one major complaint that was consistent with students had to do with the food served in the School District’s cafeterias.
“I wouldn’t put this in my own mouth,” Bressler said.
Officials from Nutrition, Inc. responded by explaining that a lot of food they receive is government surplus and they cannot control what the government sends them.
Food Service Director Kim Hunter explained that all dates on food are checked daily. She also said that samples are kept usually from Monday to Monday of all food served on the cafeteria in case of a problem and something needs to be tested. She also praised the cafeteria staff for keeping such good records that will assist the cafeteria staff in serving a better quality food to the students.
After her presentation, School Board Member James Crawford questioned Hunter and asked her to test the food served last Wednesday in the Tyrone Area Elementary School cafeteria. Crawford and other School Board Members received information about the quality of food served that day. It was later explained that there may have been a problem with the food served that day being freezer burnt.
School Board Member Brian Bressler also said he received an anonymous complaint that staff were asked not to say anything to the Board Members for fear of negative repercussions. Bressler explained to those in attendance that he was very unhappy about that situation and that staff should not be instructed to do that. Bressler said it really bothered him that this had taken place.
Board Members were assured that the students are served the best quality of food possible and quality of food served will be and was always closely observed by the School District’s food service staff.
In another aspect discussed at the meeting was some recommendations by Nutrition, Inc. representatives. They asked the School District to raise prices of a number of a la carte items, especially milk. They also mentioned that the School District has not raised lunch prices in several years and requested they do so.
It was taken under advisement by the School Board and nothing was decided at this meeting.
It was discussed about the possibility of not negotiating with Nutrition, Inc. and not putting the food service contract out to bid. After everything that was discussed and brought to the Board’s attention at the meeting, School Board Member Raymond Detwiler suggested to the other Board Members that the School District should put the food service contract out to bid just before the meeting was adjourned.