SASD will implement free meal delivery to all students
The Sparta Area School District’s administration team recently proposed delivering meals to district students at their residences, which was approved by the school board. Beginning Monday, November 30, the district will be implementing free meal delivery for all children in the district between the ages of 1 and 18.
The USDA governs the school meal programs nationwide and is fully funding the meal programs during the pandemic, which means all school breakfast and lunch meals are currently free to every single student nationwide.
There is some latitude to districts as to how to serve the meals, including the timing and the method of delivery.
The new meal delivery service will replace the existing meal pickup sites, which remained open through Nov. 20. Previously, families were able to pick up a bag that included lunch for that day and breakfast for the following day.
The meal pick up was offered at three different sites; including Sparta High School, Meadowview Middle School and Cataract Elementary School.
“It’s a really great program that is managed an excellent way by our nutrition team that provides a completely free, healthy and nutritious meal to our students,” said Leah Hauser, director of Business Services. “The current process is running really smoothly, due to a dedicated group of workers. It’s a tremendous benefit.”
Hauser added that the utilization of the program amongst district families has been low this fall compared to last spring. This fall, the district was serving just over 1,000 meals each day on average, which equates to 500 bags.
Last spring, staff were serving over 1,500 meals each day and while students are in the building staff typically provides over 2,700 meals district-wide, but the usage of the program continues to decline and Hauser attributes it to a few different possibilities.
“Last spring, many people were home and now everybody's learning a new normal. We think parents maybe were able to make it to the school sites during the day last spring and they may be back to working or are just not available now,” she said. “In addition, some families may not have a way to get to one of the meal sites either due to lack of transportation or maybe they’re working while the kids are at home learning and they can’t get away to a site.
In order to accommodate more families, the Nutrition Services staff will prepare all of the meals at Meadowview and use Southwest Bus Company, which will provide buses and drivers to get meals delivered. Members of the nutrition team will accompany drivers to handoff the meals.
The meals will be delivered to students, wherever they are in the district during the day, whether that be home or Grandma’s house.
“We believe the utilization will double if we do a method like this,” Hauser said.
The USDA sets the rate to cover the cost of food, supplies and labor and is not a dollar for dollar reimbursement to the district. The more meals the district serves, the higher profit margin the district has on each meal because of an efficiency of scale.
According to Hauser, the projected revenue would be $3,300 more per day by implementing the meal delivery service due to the increased number of meals. “We believe the profit margin also would be higher because of that efficiency of scale,” she added.
The current agreement between the district and Southwest while students are not in-building is to pay $189.34 each day or 68 percent of the contracted cost, which covers the fixed cost of the bus terminal, the cost of equipment and salaries and benefits of terminal staff.
As of right now, it’s projected that the district would need between 10 and 15 buses to run meal delivery routes. Southwest has proposed a cost of 95 percent for route costs, which equates to $264.52 per day.
The additional cost to the district per day to run 10 to 15 meal routes ranges between $750 and $1,100.
There will be no meal service this week and after the delivery service starts Monday, it will continue for the duration of the school closure.
In order for Nutrition Services to prepare an adequate amount of food, meals for delivery must be pre-ordered using the new meal delivery pre-order form on the district website.
All orders must be submitted by 7 a.m. each Monday for the following week or seven days in advance; late orders will not be accepted.
For questions regarding meal service, please contact Nutrition Services Supervisor Cindy Thesing at firstname.lastname@example.org.