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Pinching Nickels: Pottsgrove Raises Meal Prices

Chartwells Food Services representative Tom Hillanbrand (above) as he talked Tuesday with Pottsgrove school board members, and a selection of healthy cafeteria choices

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – A 5-cent increase in the price of breakfast and lunch meals to be served next year in all five Pottsgrove School District buildings won approval Tuesday (April 25, 2017) from the Board of School Directors, but not without some added food for thought.

Directors accepted a food service budget proposal for the 2017-2018 academic year created by the its contracted cafeteria operator, Chartwells School Dining Services. To break even on the $1.39 million cost of feeding hundreds of students during the 180-day span of the school year, board members unanimously agreed with Chartwell’s recommendation to raise all meal prices by a nickel.

Beginning in September, students who rely on the cafeteria will pay $3.40 for lunch at the high school, $3.05 for lunch at the middle school, $2.70 for lunch at the elementary schools, and $1.70 for breakfast.

The district doesn’t intend to make money like a restaurant might, Business Administrator David Nester explained. “It’s our focus to break even, to come as close to operating at zero as possible.” Board member Rick Rabinowitz appreciated that sentiment, but observed that “although 5 cents doesn’t sound like much, that’s a fair amount of money over the course of the year for some of our families.”

A variable in the budget, Chartwells representative Tom Hillanbrand reported, was the still-unknown cost of cafeteria labor. He said his company was currently in negotiations for a new employment contract with its workers, and expected it to be completed by June. There was no indication the price increase would be reversed or lowered if circumstances permitted.

Rabinowitz urged Hillanbrand to take a closer look at the number of servings prepared for what seemed to be students’ favorite dishes. Rabinowitz said he learned some of their choices often were limited to other foods because the most popular meals ran out quickly. Hillanbrand promised he’d check on the problem.

In addition to the overall price hike, the board also agreed to Chartwell’s request to make what it called “minor” price increases to its a la carte menu, or for extra food items like beverages or snacks not usually part of its prepared meals. Those prices were the subject of considerable social media chatter Tuesday, as some parents complained those costs were already too high.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ April 25 meeting):

Hillanbrand photo by The Post Publications; food photo from Google Images

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