Print School lunch ladies might be cut
Written by Greg Ruland   
Thursday, 10 June 2010 01:00
Lunch ladies with the  Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District could be out of a job next year if a COCSD research team chooses an independent food service operation to cook meals for students, according to COCSD Business Manager David Snyder.

For years, COCSD staff have prepared and served meals as part of the food service department.

Looking for ways to save money on the program, the COCSD board directed administrators to review proposals from outside vendors, Snyder said.

Cottonwood-Oak  Creek School District Food Service  Secretary B.J. Lyttle, right, and  Food Service Manager Laura  Engebretson talk about concerns they have  regarding the Mingus Union  High School District’s decision to outsource  their school’s food  services Thursday, June 3.Proposals are due Tuesday, July 6, after which time the board may decide to hire an outside contractor or hire a new food service director and continue the program as usual, he said.

COCSD Food Service Secretary B.J. Lyttle and Food Service Manager Laura Engebretson said they both hope the district decides to continue offering its own internal food service.

Engebretson, involved with the program for more than a decade, said it provides tasty food that meets state nutrition guidelines for several hundred students each year.

“We’ve done a great job for these kids,” she said. “We put a lot of care into what we do.”

The COCSD offers lunch free to children under 18 and at a reduced cost for adults throughout June.

For the last several years, the Mingus Union High School District has contracted with COCSD for food service at the high school. The contract earned COCSD more than $20,000 a year.

Concerns about outsourcing was one of the reasons MUHSD Governing Board voted unanimously in April to look for food service options other than COCSD, Lyttle said.

MUHSD has decided to create its own in-house food service, which was the way meals were handled before the COCSD contract.

Snyder said COCSD’s decision to seek independent contractors to provide food service was unrelated to MUHSD’s decision to cancel the COCSD contract.

A larger contractor would offer the district the benefit of economies of scale, Snyder said, which means it could place large food orders on a national basis, thereby obtaining food at a cheaper cost.

Snyder said any vendor selected as part of the contracting process would also have the financial wherewithal to successfully promote healthy lifestyles and good eating habits in the cafeteria.