Northeast School Corp. addresses concerns regarding changes to school lunches

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Our food service has changed, and it changed because it had to.

Nancy Liston, North Central Jr/Sr High School Principal

FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Northeast School Corporation in Sullivan County is facing over $300,000 in debt, a budget issue that required the schools to switch from using Sodexo food services to taking on the food service duties in house.

Sodexo reportedly offered many more options than are available now, as North Central Jr/Sr High School principal Nancy Liston says they offer a hot and a cold option, and two hot options in the winter.

“Our food service has changed, and it changed because it was just, because it had to,” said Liston.

The change may mean less options, but it also means less waste, an issue Liston said only contributed to the debt.

“We take a lunch count, like you did in elementary school kind of, but we kind of need to do that so we don’t have a lot of discard at the end of the day.”

In a statement regarding lunch counts, Adam Baker with the Indiana Department of Education said the following:

“It is not uncommon for school districts to oversee food services in-house, both in Indiana and across the country. Nor is it uncommon for districts to take a daily lunch count. And while children may routinely change their minds as to their lunch preference, the purpose of the count is to lessen waste. This can be an advantageous move for schools in today’s era where they are often strapped with inadequate funding. All in all, we believe North Central is headed in a good direction and will work through any concerns on their way to success.”

But at North Central, those lunch counts don’t always reflect what students later ask for in the lunch line; an issue that reached parents earlier this month.

“120 students asked for chicken nuggets and our cooks prepared enough for 220 students to eat, and eight students didn’t get the chicken nuggets. We had plenty of other food; they had another choice, they could’ve gotten the other entree, but they wanted chicken nuggets,” said Liston.

Liston says federal and state guidelines also factor in, as the schools must follow those guidelines in order to be reimbursed. Liston also noted that North Central does not meet the requirement for free lunches for all students, which leads to tighter funding for the school.

Northeast School Corp. free and reduced lunch eligibility in 2017-18

  • Farmersburg School – 63%
  • Hymera School – 54%
  • North Central High School – 46%
  • Shelburn School – 55%

“If your 200 pound son isn’t getting enough food, don’t blame us, you have to blame the government because that’s who puts the guidelines out on what has to be on that tray and we follow those guidelines.”

And when it comes to the contents of school lunches, Liston says it’s not always a guarantee of gourmet options, but there is never a day where students are denied food.

“Some days it’s really, really good, and some days you think ‘well I don’t think I want to eat that’; it is what it is.”

A survey was sent out for students to fill out Wednesday morning regarding the improvements they want to see in the school food service and any other feedback they have for the school. Liston says she’s hoping the results will help the school better serve the students in the future.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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