District closes cafeterias to save money

School District 43, in British Columbia, will close 13 middle school lunch rooms, which it says will save $145,000.

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

By 
Mallory Szczepanski, Digital Production Editor

When middle school students return to school after summer break, there will be one major thing missing: the cafeterias.

School District 43, in British Columbia, is closing its 13 middle school cafeterias as part of an effort to balance its 2014-15 school year budget. This is the second year in a row the district has made cost cuts. Last year, the district slashed $12.1 million from its budget after ending the 2012-13 school year with a $10 million deficit.

The district is hoping to save approximately $145,000 from cafeteria closings. The district plans to use the money saved by the shuttering for use in educational purposes.

“We can’t afford to run middle school cafeterias anymore,” says School District 43’s Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Chris Nicolls. “All middle school cafeterias will be closing by June 30.”

Although the cafeterias will be closing, the district is looking to supplement food vending machines in middle schools, with hopes of being able to bring in more machines with a wider variety of food choices. Besides the vending machines, middle school students won’t have any other food options on school premises, leaving parents and students in charge of packing lunches every day.

The district’s secondary schools will continue to offer food options and shouldn’t see any major changes, according to Nicolls.

“We are taking a look at pricing [in secondary schools] and may push prices up,” Nicolls says. “The difficulty [we have had] is subsidizing cafeterias in middle and secondary schools. We would like to make the secondary schools more self sufficient and eliminate the subsidy we have had to supply.”

Cafeteria closings aren’t the only big changes that will be taking place during next school year. The district also cut some job positions, such as teachers, bus drivers and foodservice workers, to balance the overall operation budget. The district also is eliminating bus services for non-special needs students due to the $13.4-million deficit that it was facing for the upcoming year.

Notices were sent to parents about the removal of buses. Within that notice, a mention of the cafeteria closing was included. Nicolls says that so far, reaction of the cafeteria closing from parents and students has been muted.

“We don’t have any plans on going back and reopening middle school cafeterias in the future at this time,” Nicolls states.
 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources