School Report (1/25/18)

Superintendent Joe Potts · Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Most would agree students perform better academically and socially when they have eaten nutritious meals. One of the goals of the West Liberty School District is to provide each student in our care the opportunity to eat a well-balanced breakfast and lunch on a daily basis.

Each day, the West Liberty Community School District feeds over 1,400 students and staff. Some students and employees eat both breakfast and lunch, which brings the total number of meals served PreK through 12 to around 2,800. Nationally, more than 30 million students roll through cafeteria lines in schools every day. We also provide a snack program for our pre-school students.

That’s a lot of food served on a daily basis, and it amounts to a considerable amount of time and resources to purchase, prepare, and serve nutritious meals to our students.

If it were only as easy making a list, going to the local market, buying what we think would make for healthy and delicious meals, and then serving them, that would be pretty easily accomplished. But school nutrition is more complicated.

Guidelines for Food Preparation and Purchase

Standards for school lunch nutrition were updated in 2012—the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. These guidelines require students to choose either a fruit or a vegetable. There are also specifications for portion size, calorie and carbohydrate counts. All of this was a response at the federal level to the “obesity crisis” in America.

Besides purchasing, there are requirements for preparation. Food products used to cook meals must contain zero grams of trans fat, and no more than 30% of calories can come from saturated fat in any one meal. In 2012, a 10 year plan for reducing sodium in school meals kicked in and has influenced the quality of school meals.

There are several places where school districts can purchase food. One is from local vendors who produce and distribute food in the community. Another is the Commodity Donation Program, a federal clearinghouse for distribution of staple food products to schools.

In West Liberty, we now purchase food from local vendors and take advantage of the Commodity Exchange, where food can be purchased for a discounted price.

Food Services: Stand Alone Enterprise

Food Service Programs across the state and country are required to function as stand-alone enterprises. What does this mean? Food services programs must be self-sustaining in terms of paying for food and services. You can think of the food service program as a business that must make ends meet. If it does not, this creates a financial challenge. The general fund monies generated by state and local revenues do not, and cannot, “cover” shortfalls in the food services program.

So it is important that we balance the books and at least end the year breaking even financially. Federal regulations prohibit school meal programs from carrying debt from unpaid meal charges from one year to the next. Last year, for example, the West Liberty Community School District Food Service Program ran individual negative meal account balances of over $6,000.

To help families, there are ways in which payments can be made. Some families can apply for federal free and reduced meal assistance. Depending on income, families who meet specific criteria can get help so that their children may eat both breakfast and lunch. There is no cost to apply, all information is confidential, and the status qualifies families for school fee waivers as well.

The application is a yearly requirement, and it can be found on the District’s Web page. Anyone can stop at one of our school’s Main Offices and pick up an application. Applications can be completed at any time during the year. We will also assist families who have questions about the application process.

Bottom Line

There are several bottom lines.

First, we want every student to have access every day to healthy meals, and we will make providing the best food for students in our care a priority.

The second has to do with insuring the Food Service Program here in West Liberty is self-sustaining, financially—meaning that it must balance its books.

The regular costs for breakfast range from $1.90 for elementary aged children to $2.05 for secondary students. Lunches run from $2.70 to $2.90. Reduced prices are $.30 for breakfast and $.40 for lunch.

Each lunch or breakfast not paid for creates an imbalance that adds up to considerable sums, and there is no way to balance this out from the general fund. The program must pay for itself. And families can help this program remain solvent.

Our message to our community is one of support, respect and compassion. We want all of our students to eat nutritious meals every day they are at school.

If we can lend a hand to those families in need of assistance, we will be the first to do so. All we ask from those in need is to call or talk with us to determine how we can best be of assistance.

The best way to get assistance in a confidential way is to email or call Ms. Chris Wilson, Director of Food Services, at cwilson@wl.k12.ia.us or 319.627.2071.
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