Ypsilanti schools partners with Saline to save $135,000 on food service management
Julie Harsh, food service director for Saline Area Schools, will now have a much bigger job to do.
The Saline Board of Education unanimously approved a one-year contract to manage Ypsilanti Public Schools’ food service department.
Ypsilanti’s board also voted in favor of ratifying the contract Monday.
The Ann Arbor News
Saline Superintendent Scot Graden said that revenue likely will be used for equipment purchases and staffing down the road. It cannot be used for general fund needs, as the funds are separate.
Last year, Ypsilanti’s food service management contract cost around $195,000, so partnering with Saline will save the district about $135,000.
Another way Saline schools will benefit is it will be able to significantly reduce its own per-unit commodity costs. Harsh explained because YPS has a much greater population of students receiving free or reduced lunch, she will be able to purchase commodities for both districts in greater quantities, which is more cost efficient.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides food credits to districts based on their population of low-income families and participation in the National School Lunch Program. The food credits, called commodities, that districts are eligible to receive include fresh produce, grains, beef, chicken and dairy products. Schools lose whatever they don’t use in commodities from year to year.
Saline had 479 students, or 9 percent of its total student body, qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in 2011. Ypsilanti had 2,341 students, 64 percent of its population qualify.
Ypsilanti school officials recently increased school lunch prices throughout the district, as well as admitted to not taking full advantage of the federal commodities. Harsh said she intends to make sure all of Ypsilanti’s commodities are being used this year.
Ypsilanti Superintendent Dedrick Martin approached Graden about the possibility of contracting with Saline for food service management during the summer.
In the summer, YPS had a conflict with the private contractor that was managing the district’s department, Graden said. The private contractor moved on, and the district was forced to find someone internally to manage the day-to-day food operations.
YPS identified an individual interested in taking over the department. However, that person resigned from the Ypsilanti school district to pursue another opportunity, Graden said.
Ypsilanti schools is enduring a number of challenges and financial hardships.
The district has been operating with a budget deficit since June of 2009. Its current deficit exceeds $10 million and Ypsilanti is facing additional issues, such as the threat of an emergency manager and pay-less paydays for staff in 2013, school officials have said.
Graden said Ypsilanti’s financial hardships were of concern. To confront YPS’ cash flow problems, the food service agreement calls for quarterly payments.
Saline schools Trustee David Zimmer commended the district for "working creatively on how to generate revenue and reduce cost ... and taking one thing we're very good at and using it to advance another district."
Trustee David Holden echoed Zimmer's thoughts.
"It's good to see us taking a core competency and leveraging it," he said. "We're a good strong district with a great many core competencies... We should do that more often."
Harsh's primary responsibilities for YPS will be menu planning, ordering food products and supplies, managing payroll and accounts payable, scheduling and supervising the district's food service staff and processing and verifying free and reduced-price lunch applications for the district.