Lunches will be a-changin’

May 6, 2014

For the past few years, school food just hasn’t been what it used to be. Granted, students across American would agree that they think they have never really had a Super Bowl of food choices, but it seems like we have been getting less and less, losing quantity and quality at the same time.
Voicing displeasure about school food is nothing new, but it seems like the Iola USD 257 Board of Education has finally taken notice.
Recently, our school board approved accepting bids for new food service. Some action has already taken place. A pre-bid meeting in April gave companies the opportunity to ask questions. The board will be looking at bids later this month, and any food service changes will affect the whole district, not just the high school.
We aren’t the only school district that has begun to make the transition to alternative food services. More than 20 districts in Kansas already have made such a switch.
Missouri-based OPAA Food Management is one company making a bid here; it supplies meals to more than 100 schools, including 17 in Kansas. Taher Inc., which serves meals in 10 states and supplies two Kansas school districts, is also in the running, along with Chartwells, which supplies two schools. Chartwells, based in Arkansas City, only supplies one school.
The bid submission deadline is May 6, and negotiations will take place for a week. District officials said they expect a final decision to happen this summer in June.
Regardless of the company selected, Iola students will see significant changes in the food offerings they receive. Many of the students here at IHS have said that they think the food we receive is can be sometimes distasteful and ultimately unsatisfying. The goal of switching to a new food service supplier is both to save money and to provide a much larger variety of options for students. For instance, Superintendent Jack Koehn said, we could see as many as six entree options, a larger variety of choices of fruits and vegetables, and possibly even such things as a sandwich bar. Of course, the nutritional value of the meal options provided by these companies also will meet state regulations and standards.
The plan is that once a “winner” is chosen, the new school food service will begin July 1. This means the current summer lunch program will be open in the month of June but not be available in July, because kitchen renovations will begin once a new company takes over. The loss of a month of breakfast and lunch is sad, but the improved quality of food will be well worth the sacrifice.
Even though we appreciate all the hard work of the kitchen staff here at IHS, students here can look forward to quelling the grimaces and tummy grumbling over the type of and quanity of food we receive. Hopefully, next year we can all be more satisfied with fuller bellies and happier taste buds.

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