JACKSON – The school district’s food services program was highly successful and profitable, according to Food Service Director Joseph Immordino who provided a report to the Board during a recent meeting.
“The food service department had a very favorable technical review by the State with no corrective actions,” he said. “We were able to provide meals to hybrid students (those who attended live and home instruction classes), to in school students and remote learners as well. We kept our food costs well below industry standards despite COVID issues.”
Immordino noted an increase in participation in breakfast “primarily due to meals being taken home daily as well as meals sent home to remote learners and students coming into cafeterias on a daily basis.”
He said that after the COVID-19 pandemic conditions began in mid-March 2020, “all meals were provided to students for free March through June. All students were remote learners during this time period. From March through June, we served meals via pickup at various locations and we provided delivery service as well.”
The director added, “for the school year 2021 the USDA continued to mandate meals for all students and during the summer plans were developed and executed with lunch added to schedules. High schools had grab and go meals at dismissal and meals included breakfast and lunch for those students as well.”
In February with elementary schools going back to a five-day live schedule, meals were provided at the end of the day “and in March the same thing. We provided the middle schools meals at the end of the day for them. In April when the high schools started five-day education while they were continuing to be served grab and go meals, we did the same thing. This meal format continued until the end of the year for all levels,” he said.
“Some of the challenges that we faced during the course of the year was a rising cost and product availability – specifically PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) items. One of the items we had particular problems with was gloves. Before the pandemic we were paying approximately $26 a case for them. During the pandemic it spiked to about $80 to $90 a case. The same exact product. The availability was minimal at best,” Immordino added.
He stressed to the Board and public the declining enrollment of the school district which he said was “about 400 students which is from a comparison from last year. We had more students in 2018-19. Collection of negative balances – we are looking at a deficit of $8,400 and we had some staffing concerns specifically due to COVID.”
Immordino said that in the coming school year, pursuant to the US Department of Agriculture, “all breakfast and lunches will be free to all students for the year. High schools we will providing a single unit lunch so we are going to provide breakfast to all students at dismissal. We have a little history with this now because we’ve done it for the entire year. I believe this will be of great benefit to all the students. Our primary concern will be with supply chain issues.”
Revisions could occur with any changes of guidelines by state and federal health agencies. Other challenges Immordino mentioned, were minimum wage changes and contractual obligations. He said the department would be “streamlining our selection and snacks and continue to provide healthy meal options for both in-school and grab and go breakfasts.”