While food prices in grocery stores across the nation keep rising, lunches in Bryan County school cafeterias are still just $1.75.
Bryan County Schools Food Service Director Carole Knight presented an update on the past year’s accomplishments during the "Good News" portion of the Board of Education meeting Thursday.
"There are lots of good things about our food service program," Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said. "Ms. Knight attends to what the public wants, and to what their children enjoy. She makes a dollar go a long way; when grocery prices go up, she makes it last."
While food costs and supplies have risen seven to eight percent this year, Knight said they will continue to keep the same price they’ve had for at least the past five years for student and faculty school lunches.
"We keep it as low as we can," she said, noting only five counties in Georgia have a lower percentage of children who participate in the reduced/free lunch program than Bryan.
The more children who participate in the free or reduced lunch program, the more state funding the school receives, she said.
"The free and reduced lunch help keep lunches low. It’s very difficult to do that when we keep reducing our free and reduced lunch numbers," she said. "While we do about 10-12 percent free or reduced, we’re feeding 80 percent of our high school students. The state average is about 40 percent."
Before the meeting started, Knight prepared the "most popular" school lunch for the board members – chicken fingers with gravy and mashed potatoes, broccoli and cheese, a roll and cookie.
"We don’t advertise this to students – but I think we can make it taste good and have it stay healthy," she said, noting the chicken was cooked in trans-fat-free oil, the gravy and cheese were low fat and the rolls were made from scratch.
The cookies, also made from scratch, were not low or fat free.
"But by doing other things to control the fat, we can serve one higher fat item," Knight said. "We don’t serve cookies every day but when we do, we make them from scratch."
Knight said on Jan. 1, new, stricter health regulations were instituted in Georgia for restaurants, cafeterias, etc. Now, every kitchen must have one certified Serve Save employee on the premises at all times.
Knight, who is certified to teach Serve Save, said it’s not easy to pass the certification.
"Most restaurants struggle to even get one person registered – it’s hard," she said. "We started having a certified Serve Save employee in our school kitchens about three years ago and now all our managers are certified. This past year, we also sent seven cooks to take the certification test and they all passed. It’s a really big accomplishment to do that."
Board member Jeff Morton said the school lunches are the one thing he’s never gotten a complaint about from anyone in the district.
"I know from having had my kids go to school here, they never wanted to bring their lunch from home," he said.
In other business:
- The system improvements plan and superintendent’s evaluation instrument were both tabled until the next meeting. Brewer said that trying to sort all the items on the system improvements plan was going to take a little longer than expected. \
"The Georgia School Board Association told us we had the longest list in the state last year, when we had 60 parts to the plan – now we have 90," she said, recommending the board have a called meeting next month to go through a couple more items in the plan.
Because the system improvement plan and superintendent evaluation are closely tied together, the board agreed to wait on voting.
- The board unanimously approved a bid for M. Gay Constructors, Inc., to begin the process of installing lights on the girls’ softball fields at both Bryan County and Richmond Hill High Schools. Gay was the low bidder at $299,000, out of six bids. The timeline for the project means the schools should have lights up and running by Sept. 19. "I have been waiting three-and-a-half years for this to happen," Judy Crosby said.
- The board approved ESPLOST bond resolutions. The $20 million in bonds were sold Thursday at a premium and the district should get more than $21 million in net proceeds. Bryan County is among 15 school districts in the state ranked high enough to get a premium rate on the bonds, based on the district’s credit rating.
- A facilities study from the State Department of Education is currently underway in the five year plan (2006-2011). A new study was approved Thursday, which will allow the SPLOST projects to be added to the facilities plan after the state facilities consultant looks over what has been proposed.
- A $5,000 grant was given to BCHS science department from Canoochee Electric Membership Cooperative.