A.L. schools will use food service managing company

Published 12:58 pm Saturday, March 19, 2011

Albert Lea Area Schools will likely hire a food service management company for the 2011-12 school year, which they hope will help the district meet wellness goals and keep costs manageable.

Lori Volz, director of finance and operations for the district, said the district has started the request for proposal process, which means they will ask for bids from food service management companies and then present the bids at the school board’s May 16 meeting to get formal approval.

Companies that submit bids will submit pricing information as well as information about the company and how it would operate so officials can evaluate the bids and decide which would fit best with the school district.

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Volz said there will soon be federal regulations and guidelines for school lunch menus that will require healthier — and often more expensive — foods. Hiring a food service management company may help keep costs down because they buy food in bulk, which can mean at lower costs.

“It will be more costly to enhance the menu, but we still want affordable meals,” Volz said.

Even without federal regulations in the future, Volz said the district has been trying to find ways to bring healthier foods to students without raising meal prices dramatically.

Volz said the district’s long-time employee and director of food service, Mary Nelson, will still be with the district and will be the one who will work directly with whichever food service management company is chosen.

“It’s just a different way of doing business,” Volz said.

The biggest benefit for the school will be the enhanced menu while still trying to control costs, Volz said. Administration officials have talked with other districts who have hired food service management companies who have had positive results.

“We believe this is going to be a very good thing for the students,” Volz said.

Because foods may be prepared in different ways, it may mean that staffing locations could change. Volz said she didn’t anticipate moving staff around during the first part of the year, and she also didn’t anticipate losing any staff members.