Alma School Board has voted to suspend any further movement on outsourcing the school’s food services.
The school board met Feb. 6 to discuss various matters like updates and reports for the month, but one that brought the most attention was the outsourcing of the foodservice program. The company that would have been brought in was Chartwells.
This was going to be a new step forward for Alma Public Schools, but anxiety loomed over the lunch ladies that this would affect. The possibility of the employees losing their jobs in the future, leaving certain students without lunches, and not being able to control what they cook for the students were some of the major problems.
Four employees from Alma Public Schools stood up to give comments on the situation to the board. Janice Burchman, food service worker for Alma Middle School said, “I haven’t been outsourced once, but twice.” In 2001 she worked for WestArk College, now UAFS, and in 2008 the food service of the college was outsourced. After five years, they were outsourced to another company. She expressed how much she loves her job and how much changes happen when the food program is outsourced. “It’s not worth it if it becomes a company and a business,” she said.
The consensus among all the women that commented was that when the businesses get involved they will lose the personal aspect of their job. Collectively, the women see hundreds of kids a day and when they are told what to prepare for the kids and how to serve them they lose parts of their relationship with the students. Coventry Baker commented when the students are having a good day they are there, and when they are having a bad day they are there.
The School District also provides free breakfast for kids, and it was important to the cooks that this would not be lost in the event that a private company takes over.
“A management company will only be here to provide a service. Not to be a member of the Airedale family,” Coventry Baker said. She recounted stories of children denied the food that their peers are eating because they cannot afford it, and they are given a sandwich instead. “Alma School District does not do this,” she said. “We ensure that every child has a tray of food like everybody else.” This is because the community pulls together to make sure that certain student’s meals are paid for, and when a business is managing the food program that wouldn’t be possible. Intermediate School employee Larisa Carter said that the prices would be higher if a company was brought in.
Teresa Rainwater from the intermediate school mentioned that not only will the employees be put out, but local businesses would as well. The food program purchases supplies from local farms and grocery stores in order to maintain the quality of their food. A company would provide supplies from its own sources.
After the school board voted to suspend the project Superintendent David Woolly said: “This is not a decision that I am upset with.” Although he was the leader of this possible change he knew how much this program meant to the students and the cooks.
It’s possible that outsourcing may arise in the future, but currently, it has been suspended. The school board voted unanimously in deciding on what would be best for the school and the students.