SCSD1 trustees talk school lunch options

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PINEDALE – Discussions centered around school lunches for a considerable portion of the Sublette County School District No. 1 (SCSD1) Board of Trustees’ meeting on July 19. Trustees touched on different alternatives to provide meals to students, including the possibility of withdrawing from the federal U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National School Lunch Program.

Trustees took no action regarding school meals on July 19, although the topic may come up again for discussion at later board meetings.

SCSD1 Superintendent Shannon Harris emphasized that a decision to pull out of the National School Lunch Program would be difficult, involving “significant” costs and months of information gathering to thoroughly examine each possibility. The final choice ultimately falls under the board’s authority, Harris added.

In light of the discussion on July 19, the district plans to submit a survey to families this fall asking for feedback about SCSD1’s lunch program, said Harris. Anticipated questions may include what parents and students like about the current lunch plan, any improvements that families would like to see to the plan and what their favorite foods and meals are, Harris explained.

The district also intends to ask parents how much they would be willing to pay for school breakfasts and lunches if recommended improvements are made or if the district chooses to end its participation in the National School Lunch Program, Harris continued.

Dialogue on school lunches began during the administrative report section of the July 19 meeting. Trustee Marie McGuire asked for information on what would happen if the district remained in the National School Lunch Program or pursued other options in preparation for future discussions on how to “provide better lunches” for students.

The district could withdraw from the National School Lunch Program, said Jeryl Fluckiger, SCSD1 director of operations. Fluckiger cautioned the trustees about the substantial costs the district might incur if the board decided to leave the federal lunch program.

SCSD1 would lose federal subsidies and reimbursements for school meals, along with access to certain commodities through the USDA and favorable shipping rates, Fluckiger explained.

“Right now, we don’t break even with current prices (for lunches),” Fluckiger told trustees.

Pulling out of the federal lunch program could also negatively affect wages for food service workers and the labor hours and logistics needed to prepare meals for students, Fluckiger added.

Harris raised concerns about students receiving free and reduced lunches through federal reimbursement to the district. If SCSD1 opted out of the National School Lunch Program, it would be forced to pay for subsidized meals out of its own pockets and come up with new criteria for free and reduced lunches, Harris remarked.

“Leaving kids to go hungry is the worst thing we could do to the kids we are supposed to help,” Harris said.