Report: School nutrition programs inefficient

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

A report from the state level says city school cafeterias are inefficient. The workers say the report shows only one side of the story.

In a presentation to the Selma City School Board, Perry Fulton, state administrator for the Child Nutrition Program, said of the system&8217;s 11 schools, only four of the Child Nutrition Programs made money in 2006 and 2007.

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Fulton contended that slow production is a major factor in the loss of funds for the programs. The state recommends workers produce 16 meals per work hour. None of the schools produce that many. Selma Middle CHAT Academy had the highest production at 14 meals per hour.

Dr. Kirit Chapatwala, questioned that statement as Selma High lost money with a production rate of 13 meals per labor hour and Knox Elementary made a profit with a production of on 8 meals per hour.

Without having the salary figures for the CNP employees at each school, Fulton said the difference might be because some schools may have more new employees coming in at the lower end of the salary schedule, whereas, other schools may have veteran employees who make higher wages.

A declining student population is another factor contributing to the loss of profit, Fulton said. To adjust for that, Fulton said staff members should have been reduced. He recommended the school system not replace retirees.

Mary Stokes is the CNP manager at the School of Discovery. She only has three staff members who serve 350 students. Her staff produces 12 meals per hour, but did not make a profit in the two-year time frame.

Stokes and other managers said Fulton’s report is missing some major factors that affect their budgets &8212; renovations and the replacement of old equipment.

A $10,000 cooker and a $15,000 oven are only some of the purchases Stokes said she’s had to make to keep her cafeteria running.

Jerry Smith, nutrition worker, serves as the CNP spokesperson. He said the air conditioning renovations have also come of the CNP budget.

Because the schools have adopted the Wellness Program, which promotes healthy eating, only certain foods comply. The workers say some of the foods that comply with the program are more expensive than the alternatives.

The CNP workers had asked the board to address the new salary schedule in May. Workers contend the new hires make a salary close to or more than managers. Only some workers will receive raises, they say.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the J.A. Pickard Auditorium at the School of Discovery Genesis Center, 400 Washington St.