Kaneland board split on hot lunch plan for elementary students
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media October 18, 2013 10:04AM
Updated: November 21, 2013 6:36AM
A proposal to implement a hot lunch program for grade school students in the Kaneland School District is receiving mixed reviews.
“Parents have been saying please, when?” School Board member Veronica Bruhl said. “I am definitely in favor of this. I also like the menu options. It seems healthier.”
The Kaneland School Board recently heard details of a proposal to establish a satellite hot lunch program for the district’s four elementary schools.
The report included results of an online survey of parents with elementary school age children, showing 75 percent of the 587 families that responded expressed interest in a daily hot lunch option for their children.
While a couple of School Board members were supportive, others were not convinced the program was a necessary expense, especially since programs were eliminated in recent years to reduce the district’s budget deficit.
School Board President Cheryl Krauspe questioned whether there was any evidence that suggested students were having nutritional issues. Staff replied by saying “probably not.” They also said that while the number of families eligible for the free lunch program has risen, less than 50 percent are taking it.
“Right now it seems to me it would be more of a convenience for elementary parents. I am not sure it is a necessary expenditure of our tax dollars,” Krauspe said.
Gigi Gochee-Statler, director of food service, said the proposal is to have lunches prepared in the kitchen of the former Kaneland Middle School in Maple Park and then delivered by staff drivers in two vans to the district’s four elementary schools.
Gochee-Statler said a hot lunch doesn’t necessarily mean every meal is served warm, but rather it must meet federal nutritional requirements. “One day a week it can be cold,” she said.
Julie-Ann Fuchs, assistant superintendent for business, said the district’s citizens advisory committee suggested two years ago the district look into the possibility of adding a hot lunch program for the grade schools.
Fuchs estimated the initial one-time start-up costs for all of the associated equipment and vehicles would be approximately $110,000. Fuchs estimated the recurring expenses to maintain the program would be $150,000 annually.
The recurring costs would be offset by the revenue generated from the $2.25 per pupil cost for the meal, Fuchs explained. She said the district would participate in the Federal National Lunch Program, which would also generate a small amount of revenue for the program.
“The $110,000 expenditure would have to come out of somewhere,” School Board member Teresa Witt said.
Witt said if a district-wide survey had been done, they likely would have heard from families more interested in having the after-school activity bus transportation restored.
“We have cut programs that we need to look at before we go down that road. I would say put it to a referendum and have them pay for it,” Witt said.
“I don’t see it as a luxury, but something that would enhance the learning experience for students,” School Board member Peter Lopatin said. “We don’t know that there are kids who are not performing at a level that would respond better academically with the program. There might be a number of students who would benefit.”
Administrators said they would not establish a planning committee on the issue, but would return with other options for consideration next spring.