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Update on PSB Food Services Program

Dear PSB Families,

Since spring 2018, the School Committee and school district leadership have been reviewing the quality, cost, and financial health of our public schools’ food service program. After 16 public meetings discussing many facets of the food service program, the School Committee has decided on a path forward to help improve the quality, accountability, and the financial health of Brookline’s food service program.

Management of Food Services 

During its audit of the district’s food service program in 2016, when the program was operating under a district employee management structure, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education cited the Public Schools of Brookline (PS) for numerous findings. As a result, PSB hired Whitsons, a food service management company, to oversee our food services operations, provide training, and be the schools’ food supplier. Over the past year, during the course of many public meetings, the School Committee came to the conclusion that Whitsons was not providing leadership and management responsive to the district’s needs. The School Committee chose to issue an RFP for a new management company and also post a position to hire an internal Food Service Director and bring the program back in-house.

As a result of that process, this summer PSB will return food services to internal management and has hired a new Food Services Director, Sasha Palmer who will be starting in July. Ms. Palmer comes to the district with 12 years of experience in the food service field including more than six years experience and expertise in K-12 school food service programs throughout the country. Most recently Ms. Palmer worked for the Amherst-Pelham Regional School District in western Massachusetts. She holds a degree in Food and Nutrition from the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica. The district will also be hiring a new Assistant Director in the food service program office.

This year the School Committee also launched a Food Service Advisory Committee (FSAC) whose primary objective is to increase participation and ensure a high quality service and product in PSB’s food service program. The FSAC reviews monthly reports related to key metrics including meal selection, meal per labor hour, menu planning, budget, purchasing, and sustainable purchasing. The Food Service Advisory Committee has also met with a group of high school students to seek their input and understanding of food service and plans to continue meeting with students and parents during the upcoming year as the internal management team comes up to speed.

Financial Health of Food Services, Meal Price Increase and Student Account Balances in Deficit

Historically, PSB’s food service program has run an operating deficit because costs do not match revenue from food sales. This deficit has ranged between $50,000 and $150,000 each year over the past 5 years. With a goal of matching costs and revenue, the School Committee followed the Superintendent’s recommendation and approved the first price increase since 2015. Starting in September 2019, breakfast will cost $2.00 at the elementary schools and at Brookline High School. K-8 lunches will cost $3.55 and a high school lunch will cost $3.80. Previously, premium lunches were all $4.25; they will now range from $4.50 to $10.00 per lunch depending on what is being offered. Differentiated pricing on premium meals is necessary because of the wide variability in the costs of these lunches. The program would like to bring back sushi and fresh fish like Red’s Best that has been piloted in some schools this spring. The price of free and reduced-price meals are set by the state and will not be changing. Any student qualifying for free and reduced priced meals can purchase premium meals at free or reduced rates.

Healthy Eating and PSB’s Wellness Policy

The Public Schools of Brookline aims to provide healthy, tasty, high-quality, affordable meals to the students and staff. In an ongoing effort to offer appealing and healthy options, changes were made last year to menu items and meal planning to make them more consistent with the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate. The new director will be charged with improving overall satisfaction with the program and with maintaining compliance with federal, state and local nutrition and wellness standards set by the US Department of Agriculture, the district Wellness Policy and other state regulatory agencies.


Parents and families should know and understand that there will be a period of adjustment as we shift back to a self-operated program and that menus, website, information, and other features they may have enjoyed over the last two years will not be available early in the year. We anticipate that the district and the program will be able to implement many of the features and supports by the end of the first year and the beginning of September 2020.


Sincerely,


Mary Ellen Normen
Deputy Superintendent for Administration & Finance



Price Updates for PSB Food Service Program for 2019-20 School Year


Meal/Item

FY19 Fee

FY20 Fee

Change

K-8 breakfast

$1.75

$2.00

Increased by $0.25

K-8 lunch

$3.25

$3.55

Increased by $0.30

K-8 Premium Lunch

Did not exist

$4.50 - $10.00

Introduced differentiated pricing to be able to offer a wider range of selections

High School breakfast

$1.75

$2.00

Increased by $0.25

High School lunch

$3.50

$3.80

Increased by $0.30

High School Premium Lunch

$4.25

$4.50 - $10.00

Introduced differentiated pricing to be able to offer a wider range of selections

Milk, Lactaid

$0.75

$0.75

No price change

Soy Milk

$1.50

$1.50

No price change

100% Juice

$0.50

$0.50

No price change

Summer lunch

$3.25

$4.00

Priced to match actual cost of providing summer meals

Adult Meals*

*Includes meals tax

$4.25

$4.50 - $10.00

Introduced differentiated pricing to be able to offer a wider range of selections