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Grand Island Board of Education: School lunch program heading in right direction, trustees told

Fri, Jan 27th 2017 04:05 pm

By Larry Austin

Island Dispatch Editor

Changing the negative perception of school lunches is one of the goals of the Grand Island Central School District food services department, Board of Education trustees were told Monday.

 Anne Rich, school lunch manager for the district's department of food services, made a presentation to the board trustees during the board's regular meeting in the high school Professional Development Room. She said the department, which has employees, is working hard and looking at potential changes "to help improve our program." 

Rich said her department has "a challenge of changing the perception of school lunch," and that the program is only for students that receive free and reduced lunches.

"It's a program for everybody," she said.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Robert McDow said the program was in the black in 2011 by $235,000, but $100,000 in the red last year "mostly because more nutritious food costs more." Student participation and sales have gone down, but salaries and benefits have risen over time, McDow pointed out.

Rich said the district is moving in the right direction.

McDow said part of the problem the district is trying to battle the stigma that school lunches aren't good. "It is good," he said, but said overcoming perception will take time.

The number of students participating in school lunches has decreased, but the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches has increased, Rich said.

A meals-per-labor hour statistic that shows how productive the kitchens are indicates GICSD has some work to do. The New York State Education Department equations estimate 18-22 meals per one hour of labor is profitable, while less than 15 is a loss. Currently, the district average is at 12.7, Rich said, an increase since 2013-14 when it was 10 meals per lunch hour.

Rich said her goal is to reach 15 meals per labor hour with 50 percent student participation. "We still have some hard work to get there," Rich said, but adding that she was "very confident" the district would meet that goal.

The district has reduced staff size from 32 to 27 due to attrition.

Rich said Feb. 2 is Healthy Heart Night at Kaegebein Elementary School, where families will be able to taste the district's healthy dishes for themselves.

One trustee offered a positive food review. Board Vice President Donna Tomkins told Rich, "You make a mean eggplant parmesan."

Ambassador Reports

Connor Middle School student ambassador Isabel Buckingham reported that 10 students from the school took part in DECA Regionals Jan. 8 at the high school. Three Connor Middle School students advanced to state competition. "We are all very excited for our trip to Rochester and we hope to do our best in the next round of competition," said Buckingham, who is one of the three qualifiers.

Buckingham said the eighth-grade dance has changed to Red Carpet Activity Night and will take place Feb. 10.

High school ambassador Sarah Swagler, a DECA regional representative, said 150 GIHS students competed at regionals and 60 advanced to states. State qualifiers have a chance to advance to DECA Nationals, which this year are in Anaheim. "And I know this is the main goal of every DECA competition, including me," Swagler said.

DECA students will guide middle-schoolers on the electives offered at high school during ninth-grade orientation Jan. 27. For the first time, St. Stephen School students will join Connor Middle School students in the tour, Swagler noted.

The Business Department will hold its annual Job Search program Feb. 18 at the high school. Swagler said Job Search gives students an opportunity to experience a mock interview with Island businesses to "prepare them for their future."

In Other News

Trustee Sue Marston voiced her disappointment in the cancellation of the Jan. 30 joint meeting between the Grand Island Board of Education and the Grand Island Town Board. The two boards, that both meet twice a month on Mondays, meet jointly on the fifth Monday of the month. There won't be a month with a fifth Monday for the rest of the school year.

The Grand Island Board of Education will next meet Monday, Feb. 13.

Board of Education meetings air on Time Warner Cable Channel 22 at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday.

Board of Education Trustees

  • President: Lisa Pyc
  • Vice President: Donna Tomkins
  • Trustees: Glenn Bobeck, Susan Marston, Richard D'Agostino, Joy LaMarca and Karen Carroll
  • Superintendent: Dr. Brian Graham
  • District Clerk: Janet Schuster

Send comments to the board at [email protected].

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