The Ridgway School Board approved the price hike at its July 16 meeting at the Ridgway Elementary School. The 50-cent increase was requested by members of the school district’s citizen Food Service Committee, which stated in a report to the board that the current secondary food service budget is not enough to sustain the quality of food students have been receiving in the past. According to that report, there is a salary budget amount of $45,400 that will cover a head cook, one additional cook and about one three-hour point-of-sale employee. The current budget amount simply isn’t enough to maintain a high level of quality food.
“This means that the current quality of food the students are receiving will decline greatly as this staffing level is insufficient to continue the food program the students and faculty have become accustomed to, and we parents believe produces the best benefit for students and teachers alike,” the committee’s report stated. Without the 50-cent increase in cost the committee believes that “there will have to be more pre-packaged, processed foods and less fresh fruits and vegetables, homemade wheat breads, and made-from-scratch wholesome meals.
“We desperately want the quality of the food coming from the secondary kitchen to remain as it has been.”
With the 50 cent increase in place, the Food Service Committee stated that it will commit to conducting a free- and reduced-lunch campaign to increase the number of families receiving the service, recruit more volunteers in the kitchen to help with dish washing, establish efficiencies with the kitchen paperwork, and find ways to decrease food costs.
Furthermore, without a 50-cent increase, the committee also expresses concern that the budget shortfall would force the discontinuation of the secondary school’s breakfast program and have a detrimental affect on students’ performance in the classroom.
“Studies have shown that teenagers are not functioning well in the morning,” the committee’s report stated. “Many do not want to eat early in the morning but do get hungry midmorning. If they remain hungry until lunch, their stamina and alertness has decreased…When students are fed well they are more able to learn.”
According to School Board President Kara Mueller, while the board approved the price increase for the food program, they will let Superintendent Cheryl Gomez, secondary school Principal Emma Brockman and the head cook figure out how exactly the program will work.
“We basically said that the price increase is for the food service program specifically, but then butted out of any further detailed management that is rightly the superintendent’s job,” Mueller said.