Dover Area School District student Carley Johnston said she likes the idea of a great tasting lunch, but she's still concerned about cafeteria employees losing their jobs.
Carley, a 17-year-old Dover High School junior, sampled sandwich wraps and other items left Monday by Metz Culinary Management officials after they discussed a proposal to provide services to the district during the Dover school board meeting.
"It's delicious, better than anything I can make," said Carley, a student representative to the board. "I was surprised by how healthy it was when I tasted how delicious it was."
Tastiness aside, the student said she hopes the board and district officials will find a way keep all cafeteria staff despite the school's budget issues.
The district is considering whether to hire a food service company or adjust its own program to save money for the district.
The district has been losing money in its food service department for years and has used money from its general fund to keep up with cafeteria costs, said Belinda Wallen, the district's business manager.
The numbers: For the 2009-2010 school year, the district had a food service deficit of $82,037.
Losses increased to $189,681 the next school year. The loss for this school year is $248,000. The expected loss for next school year is $264,000, Wallen said.
She said the losses are mainly because of increases in retirement and health benefit funds the district is required to provide.
The district must adopt a budget by June 18. Its contract with Dover Area Education Support Professionals Association - which represents food service employees - expires June 30, Wallen said.
The district has received food service proposals from Metz, Aramark, Chartwells and the Nutrition Group. Two of the companies did presentations on Monday.
The board heard from Metz officials, who set up a table of lunch food to students in more than 40 school districts mainly in Pennsylvania. The food included sandwiches, salads, fruits and parfait cups. The company also brought water and 100 percent fruit juice.
Toby Horner, vice president of sales for student services at Metz - based in Dallas, Luzerne County, said the company guarantees the district will have a $125,085 surplus in cafeteria funds over the next five years if the district hires Metz.
He said Metz will provide health and wellness educational programs, involve parents and the community in its effort to promote healthy eating and update its recipes and menus to meet federal, state and local laws, as well as students' suggestion for taste and variety.
Second offer: Before the Metz presentation, the board heard from Philadelphia-based Aramark, which serves more than 600 school districts, including 60 in Pennsylvania.
Aramark officials guaranteed a $107,222 surplus in cafeteria funds over the next five years, and the company will pay the difference. The company also said it will provide lunches appropriate for each grade level and provide a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Like Metz, the group will offer health educational programs and will receive input from students and parents.
If chosen by the district, Aramark - which has 5,000 employees - would give current district cafeteria staff opportunities to apply for positions with Aramark. Hirees would receive salaries comparable to the district's wage levels, Aramark said.
Metz also would provide Dover cafeteria staff employment opportunities, though its wage rate is lower than the district's, Horner said.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at 505-5438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.