Food fight: School staff asks board to reconsider food services contract

May 2015 Posted in News, School

By Kristine Thomas

More than 25 classified employees attended Silver Falls School District board meeting May 11 to express their disappointment in the current food services program provided by Sodexo.

Wearing buttons reading “Local kid. Local food. Local control,” members shared stories about the quality of the food and the increase in work load since Sodexo was given a contract six-months ago.

Robert Frost Elementary School assistant cook Ross Bryant said the district’s kitchen staff was told there would not be too many changes with the Sodexo contract.

“That’s not the case,” Bryant said. “Our work load has increased but our hours are the same.”

Handing out lunches the next day, Bryant said he has noticed a lot of food is thrown away. “The quality of the food has gone down,” he said.

Mary Jo Lundquist is the lead cook at Silver Crest Elementary. She has worked for the district for 16 years.

“We have always taken such pride in bringing to our children a well-balanced nutritional meal for daily breakfast and lunches following the guidelines provided by the ODE and the national school lunch program,” she said.

Now, Lundquist said, many weekly produce orders are poor quality, shipped to the incorrect school or never arrive. “In addition, our produce arrives on Friday as opposed to Monday as in the past.”

“We are asking the school board to truly look into these recent changes of our school lunch program,” Lundquist said.

Ron Duda is the classified employees president. “I ask the district give the food services another chance,” Duda said. “We want to keep the quality and the variety. We want our food to be local.”

Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando said the school board will discuss Sodexo’s contract May 18 at the 7 p.m. work session at the district office. A full food service report will be presented. Sodexo’s contract runs to June 30. The board will need to take action for next year.

Bellando said food sales are up in the district. He said he has heard a few complaints and he has received compliments as a result of the changes.

“We take pride in providing a nutritious breakfast and lunch program at all food service sites across the district,” Bellando said. He added a recent internal review of the  food program helped the board identify three goal areas. The first is to increase student participation.

“Our participation numbers have been dropping over the past few years, especially at the elementary level,” he said. The district also needs to be in full compliance with federal nutrition requirements and state rules.

“We have identified areas where we needed to improve and those are being addressed,” Bellando said. “Additionally, our next Department of Education audit is scheduled for this fall and it is important that we demonstrate that we are in full compliance.”

The district also seeks to maintain a self-sufficient food program that does not rely upon general fund dollars.

“We place a high value on the input from the community and the suggestions for improvement,” Bellando said. “They will be considered as we move ahead to address the board goals and to improve the overall food service program.”

In other school board news: The board voted 5-1 to move the third grade students from Eugene Field to Robert Frost for the 2015-16 school year. Board member Julie Norris voted no and board member David Beeson was absent. Bellando said the move is necessary to provide additional classroom space to accommodate all-day kindergarten at Eugene Field Elementary School in the fall. For the 2016-17 year, Robert Frost will house third, fourth and fifth grades.

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