Roanoke City School Board looks to outsource meals; Virginia Education Association fights back

School lunch student

ROANOKE (WSLS10) – There are 11 vendors supplying Roanoke City Schools with daily meals for students, but that could soon change as the district’s administration considers outsourcing to nationally recognized companies.

Now some are fighting to keep that business in the hands of local companies.

Salem City and Halifax schools switched to national companies for food delivery last year. Roanoke City Schools currently outsource transportation, nurses and substitute teachers, but food still comes from local companies.

“They are used to menu planning, they are used to training your servers and food preparers, and they really emphasize cooking from scratch,” said Roanoke City School Board Chairman, Suzanne Moore. “So, whether a student has a health concern or a religious requirement, these larger companies can do it in mass, have done it professionally for so long and are here to help.”

However, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) disagrees. In a statement, it said ‘most private contractors base their sales pitch on the premise that they can provide the same or greater service at lower cost. In reality, this is often not the case.’

“The board has not made a decision, the board has not made a commitment, but we’re looking at the advantages over the disadvantages of that policy,” commented Moore.

The school board believes a larger firm could provide a greater variety of hot lunches, cater to the needs of those with food allergies and will hopefully save the district money that could then be used for other budgets.

But, the VEA mentions privatization frequently results in lower quality services, accountability problems, and lower nutritional quality.

“These are vendors that do a lot of colleges and universities and have all cited examples of where they have been successful in even Virginia,” said Moore.

The school board has the final say. For now, they’re negotiating. But, if the district reaches an agreement with one of the private firms, a new food plan could take effect as early as the start of the 2016 school year.

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