The Hour leads today with a story about the rising costs of food, and the impact it will have on the school lunch programs. The other elephant in the room is the higher energy costs that will be a bigger hit. With no new finance person, or I should say, since the Norwalk Public Schools never had a real high level finance person, no financial operations planner, the impact in the next 5 years will be really significant.
Already the BOE budget is suffocating the average tax payer in Norwalk, so it is of utmost importance that the BOE and Corda look to staff position that will plan and forecast rising costs and mitigate their ipact on the system.
For starters that means a forensic audit of past operational expenditures. Opdhal spent too much time moving money for accounts. Real cost impacts need to be determined and projections based on historical expenses need to be real and data based. Corda will have to seriously consider the viability of each school building, not just from an enrollment perspective but of an operation perspective. The worst energy performing schools need to be evaluated. Investment should be made into more energy efficiency.
There needs to be a real effort to seek out grants to max energy improvements to educational facilities. While the council somehow dithers over the municipal power committee, it should be looking at how all public facilities can upgrade to more energy efficient systems.
But back to food, and The Hour reports:
Rising food and fuel costs have prompted many schools to cut some items from their menus, and Norwalk schools may soon be feeling the pinch.
An e-mail sent last week from the U. S. Department of Agriculture to schools and providers said school lunch providers won’t receive some commodities in September and November from the National School Lunch program.
This means Whitson’s Culinary Group can’t purchase some products, such as cheese and poultry, at the lower price provided for schools with free and reduced-lunch students.
Norwalk schools receive meals from Whitson’s, a catering company that provides dining for schools, corporations, residential healthcare and events.
“It’s scary because you don’t know what will happen,” said Lisa Evans, director of the Norwalk Whitson’s program. “All school districts are feeling this, and the cost (of food) is definitely an issue.”
Evans said Whitson’s hasn’t changed its menu yet, but may do so in the fall for the new school year. She also mentioned the rising cost of everyday food is a “double whammy” when coupled with federal guidelines that state healthier, but more expensive, food must be served on menus for proper nutrition.
“We’ll probably stick to having more standard items on the menu,” she said. “We may have to use more frozen vegetables instead of fresh but all of this could change.”
Elsewhere in the region, school and colleges have been cutting back. Several schools have eliminated trays on the theory that students will grab less if they have to carry the food in their hands. Other schools that charge students by the item are increasing the cost of healthier choices.
Food prices rose more than 4 percent in the United States last year, the biggest jump since 1990, according to the USDA.
source: The Hour, School menus squeezed by higher food, fuel costs, by Nina Sen, May 12, 2008