School lunch and I have a somewhat unpleasant history. Growing up it was awesome. I always ate hot lunch at school and was fine with this. I liked most of the food. Especially Navajo Taco Day. I mean, who didn’t like Navajo Taco Day??? I liked how there seemed to be a permeating aroma of hamburger and corn every day starting around 10:30, and HELLO?! THE PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE BARS???
I still weep with missing them.
On the few times I had to bring a lunch from home I was totally disappointed and often just went hungry instead of eating. Mainly because my father usually made them and lunch consisted of sandwiches slathered with so much mayonnaise that it would soak through the bread, milk in a jelly mason jar and everything would be wrapped in layers and layers of aluminum foil. Even my oranges.
So, school lunch was a much better option for me.
Dealing with the ins and outs of school lunch has been trickier with my kids. My children have been attending a charter school since the first year it opened. Basically, this means that while it is still a public school (Many people think we charge tuition. We don’t.), we are not under any school district. We are basically our own district and have much more flexibility in control over schedules, curriculum, dress codes,etc. The flip side of having this control is that we take less federal funding, so our school does not have a bus program, nor do we have a true “Cafeteria”. We never will, either. School lunch programs are too expensive to be self-sufficient and the budget absorbs a lot of the cost and subsidizes what the students pay to eat daily.
For the first year of school we had to make lunches every day. When I took over as Parent Organization President, we implemented “Pizza Day”. We brought in pizza so that the kids would have something hot and that once a week, parents would get a break from packing lunches. It was such a success that my board and I rolled our sleeves up and tackled getting a more consistent hot lunch program in place. We hired a caterer to bring lunch into the school and serve it out of the warming kitchen.
It was a DISASTER.
His food was often poorly made, he was inconsistent in everything he did, he often ran out of food, and his professionalism just SUCKED. He was warned and talked to repeatedly. Instead of improvement, there was bickering and disagreements about money he claimed we owed him (We didn’t. I had the receipts to prove it). One evening I got a voice mail at 11 pm that if he wasn’t paid the amount he said we owed by 10 am he would not be serving the kids lunch the next day.
You do not threaten to let kids go hungry as a power play. Not on my watch.
I called up several friends on my PO board (Go, Chelle!) and we arranged for pizza, bread sticks and milk to be delivered to the school and I told the caterer to meet with us the next day with me, the Principal, my Vice President, treasurer and members of the school board.
At the meeting, we went over his issues, my issues, my accounting of finance, his accounting of finances (He didn’t have any paperwork “With him”. Meaning, he didn’t have any PERIOD).Â When he saw the path it was going down he tried to apologize and said he came all ready to feed the children chili for lunch. I told him weren’t about to chance our kids going hungry so we had pizza being delivered and that we were done working with him. My first experience “Firing” someone.
What about the rest of the year, though? We had to scramble to find an alternative and fast. It was difficult. We came up with “Meals on Wheels” and had them bring in lunch for the rest of the year. At the time, they were the only facility that didn’t serve all fried foods that could deliver, serve, meet our price, provide the serving dishes and handle the volume. The problem was that the kids didn’t really love the food. I don’t blame them. Still, it was hot, and not totally sucky. It was hugely popular w/the parents so we kept it the next year.
When I left as PO President the program changed. There was a new restaurant in town that met all the criteria AND the kids LOVE the food. While I am slightly envious that the new PO President found the perfect option when I wasn’t able to, I am thrilled as a parent to not have to make lunches every day and that my kids are happy.
There are a few downsides to it, though. They only cater three days a week, so I still have to make lunches Mondays and Fridays. That’s not too bad, but the orders are only taken once a month. See this sheet of paper? If it is not turned in by the deadline specified, you are SCREWED!
You have to wait until the next month and are stuck doing lunches until then. Not missing the deadline is important and it is doubly challenging with my sucky memory. There has been more than one month were I don’t remember to get the checks in, even with reminders put on my mirror and hanging the lunch menu on my fridge.
So, how can a girl like me MAKE SURE to remember to fill out a VIP (Very Important Paper) and turn it in?
It totally worked. We’re good to go until October.