Barrington students are not buying school lunch like they used to.
Last Thursday night, Director of Administration and Finance Ron Tarro gave the School Committee an update on this year’s food service program. He said participation is down from last year, 722 meals total this month alone compared with Oct. 2011.
Diminishing participation isn’t a new trend, either.
A drop in school lunch purchases last year lead to a bump in prices this year. Mr. Tarro said the district’s deal with food service provider Chartwells stipulates that the company will cover a certain amount of revenue shortfall beyond its operational cost.
After that, the district is on the hook.
Mr. Tarro said he recently heard from high school students through a food advisory group and one concern with school meals is portion size.
“Even some kids that you wouldn’t think are big eaters said it’s not enough,” Mr. Tarro said.
Student representative Faith Moses echoed this sentiment. She said wraps, for example, are “significantly smaller” this year.
“It’s a small meal compared to what it was last year,” she said.
Mr. Tarro said another factor is district demographics. With a relatively small number of students receiving free or reduced lunch, said Mr. Tarro, meal purchases make-up the vast majority of program revenue.
One idea to generate more revenue is a potential kiosk at the high school where students would be able to pick-up something between the end of class and after school practices or games. Mr. Tarro also said he plans to meet with students again to discuss menu changes that might make school-bought lunch more attractive.
Further complicating the matter, however, are federal guidelines on what is and isn’t available for students. Superintendent Michael Messore said state these regulations have “greatly impacted” what is on the menu.
Mr. Tarro said the district must also be mindful of meeting regulations for what is offered to those receiving free and reduced lunch.