Schools OK district-run food service

The School Board voted 5-0 Monday to implement a district-run food service program this fall.

In June, the district will end its contract with Sodexo, which has managed the district's cafeterias for the past five years.

At the meeting in the City Council Chambers, about 25 parents spoke in favor a district-run program, saying they wanted their children to eat organic, local food.

"We have a vested interest in our kids' education and I also believe we need to have a vested interest in what we feed our kids," said Jill Williams, a community member of the district's Food Service Study Committee.

The only speakers to express support for the Sodexo program were two Sodexo employees.

The district-run program will likely cost about twice as much the Sodexo program would next year, due to increased staffing costs, said Jill Turner, the district's business manager.

Turner estimated the Sodexo program will cost the district about $78,000 this year. Next year, the same program from Sodexo would likely cost about $88,000, she said.

Board Chairman Keith Massie was originally reluctant to vote for a district-run food service program, because he was concerned about the financial cost, which was estimated at $170,000 in the first year.

"We're digging a deeper hole by going to self-operating, so it's going to be harder to dig out of that hole," he said.

However, Massie said comments from community members at the meeting convinced him that a Sodexo program wouldn't work for the district, because of the animosity against the corporate food company.

Board members Ruth Alexander and Eva Skuratowicz, who served on the district's Food Service Study Committee, supported the move to a district-run program.

They presented a report from the 13-member committee endorsing the district-run program. The report suggests serving vegetables grown in school gardens, food from local restaurants and produce from the Ashland Food Cooperative.

Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said she supports the direction the board took Monday.

"I do believe we need to move forward and try something different," she said.

Sales in the district's cafeterias have declined since the 2006-07 academic year.

The district ran its own food program until contracting with Sodexo for the 2005-06 school year.

Alexander said the committee hopes the district-run food service program will encourage higher participation, leading it to become cost-neutral in three years.

"If we try something new and see that it doesn't work, we can reconsider, but at least well have tried something new," she said.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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