The Abilene Board of Education met Monday night and heard from two representatives of OPAA about USD 435’s food service programs.
Regional Director of Operations Byron Wofford and Business Development Associate Jack Koehn of OPAA addressed the board.
According to Koehn, district schools have sometimes run out of certain foods while serving.
He said this could be a system-related program or a problem caused by students ordering food, then changing their minds after the fact and asking for something else.
“It sometimes comes down to a systems issue,” Koehn said. “We either need to work better at that system and getting better numbers or sometimes kids change their mind — those kinds of things — and we allow that. It’s something that we don’t have to happen. Sometimes it does.”
Wofford agreed students changing their mind could cause supply problems.
“We pad our numbers on the hot side because we know that’s sometimes going to happen,” he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work and we might have to scramble at the end of the shift to make some extra (entrees).”
Assistant Superintendent Dana Sprinkle said this was sometimes a problem at Abilene High School with students who have later lunch periods having to select from more limited options.
“We haven’t ever run out of food,” she said. “There have always been options there for them.”
Board member Veronica Murray who has a daughter at the high school said sometimes students received less food than usual.
She related a story about her daughter receiving only three chicken nuggets as opposed to the usual six after she ordered the entree for lunch one day.
“It wasn’t presented to them like, ‘we’re running low so we’re going to give you three, so do you want this or do you want to go back to the salad bar line?’” Murray said.
Member Kyle Becker said his son had a later lunch period and often didn’t have any options outside of a salad.
“Later in, we’re running out,” he said.
“And it’s never — it doesn’t matter what option it is, it just needs to get way more there.”
Becker said it was a frequent complaint about the district’s food service program. He said he wasn’t sure what was causing problem, but it needed to be fixed.
Wofford said there were ways to remedy the situation that could require work on the district’s part.
Board member Jennifer Waite suggested the possibility of hot and cold line tickets.
The board also asked why so many menu items included breaded chicken of some kind.
Wofford said it was because those items are well-liked and because they’re lower calorie than some other items.
Options have changed due to issues with the overall food supply caused by a lack of truck drivers and warehouse workers.
Koehn and Wofford addressed this.
“It’s a monster right now,” Wofford said. “We have 41 districts right now that do not have a purveyor.”
He said he himself had taken on the duty of delivering food to schools during the worker shortage. The district is not currently able to use locally-grown beef because local processing plants are backed up.
OPAA is a new addition to USD 435.
The district began working with the company in 2020.
Since the district switched to offering free breakfasts and lunches to all students, more students have participated in the food service program in Abilene schools.
The number of students who eat breakfast at school has almost doubled.
The district serves about 600 breakfasts and about 1,100 lunches daily.