School Committee served update on food program

By Matthew Bernat | Feb 11, 2016

Food Service Director Robert Shaheen didn’t mince his words before the Wareham School Committee regarding equipment used to serve student meals.

“It’s old,” Shaheen said during an update on the Food Services Program at the committee’s Wednesday night meeting.

Shaheen reported that nearly all of the cafeteria equipment in the district couldn't be sold for anything of value due to age.

Committee members took the information in stride as the rest of Shaheen’s report featured encouraging news.

Shaheen said that since the 2013/2014 school year the breakfast program has significantly increased. On average, more than 21,000 meals are served each month.

“The breakfast counts are strong,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen attributed that spike to the Breakfast in Classroom program, which serves meals in students’ classrooms as opposed to a cafeteria.

The lunch program also saw an uptick in participation from 2013/2014 to now. However, it wasn’t as big an increase as the breakfast program.

“We have some potential growth there,” Shaheen said, adding he would evaluate the meal options available to elementary school students.

“We’re looking at some different ways to try and increase participation,” he said.

Committee member Rhonda Veugen, who has a child attending Minot Elementary School, said her son offered one idea.

“He said if you served hot dogs every single day, he would eat lunch,” she said. “But please don’t do that.”

Shaheen’s report also featured a thorough examination of participation rates for each month during the past three years at all schools in the district.

Chair Geoff Swett thanked Shaheen for the detailed analysis.

“You’re a man after my own heart in terms of the metrics you’ve created,” Swett said.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Feb 12, 2016 07:50

Just wondering, does the school department ever and I mean ever do any proactive maintenance or replacement of its facilities prior to things progressing to a state of emergency for every single thing?  I cant wait to here what the cost of this upgrade is going to cost the town.

Posted by: Susan A Noonan | Feb 13, 2016 00:43

I keep reading this article trying to find anything that I can wrap my head around. Is the school department trying to sell the equipment to buy new equipment: "nearly all of the cafeteria equipment in the district couldn't be sold"? Has the increase in meals served in the school system increased student engagement in the classroom? Research shows that there is a correlation between combating hunger and increases in test scores and performance. It's is great that the system is targeting a source of some of the problems of students who come to school hungry. However, I fail to see any solutions reported in the above article. Detailed analysis is always extremely helpful in pinpointing a problem as it must have been in this case. Was there a plan of action outlined at this meeting? Perhaps the reporter can comment and add to the article to include any conversation that revolved around a plan to update the equipment to handle the increases. 

Posted by: totellthetruth | Feb 13, 2016 10:36

For once I agree with Sphere. Things get to the "crisis"stage before anyone "blows the whistle".

This could be a positive factor: Instead of spending $million + to re-equip 4 kitchens in the School system.  Choose the biggest and make it a Central commisary to prepare all the Food for all the schools. Ship the meals to the other 3 schools. This is the way the bigger cities do it.

Posted by: Knocked for six | Feb 14, 2016 10:05

This is why outsourcing was on the table a couple of years ago.


Posted by: Mike Flaherty | Apr 03, 2016 16:43

I realize this topic is a bit old, but with Town Meeting around the corner it is actually quite timeless.


Sphearbreaker wrote:

"Just wondering, does the school department ever and I mean ever do any proactive maintenance or replacement of its facilities prior to things progressing to a state of emergency for every single thing?"

Sphere, this all falls under Capital Planning. The Schools work with the Capital Planning Committee and the Town Administrator to identify and prioritize needs of the District.

Those needs are in fact very well documented in the Capital Planning Annual Reports for anyone to read if they wished.  Unfortunately, identifying and prioritizing needs doesn't often lead to funding them - until they break.  At which time everyone acts surprised as if it wasn't Wareham's cultural pastime to kick the can down the road.

Anyway, if you sincerely care to know, I suggest you start here with the 2010 Capital Planning Committee Report.  You'll have to scroll a bit to get to the schools, as there are millions and millions of dollars of needs that all departments have identified from the police, to the library, municipal maintenance, and more.

Cafeteria upgrades, roofs, windows, doors, aging technology, PA systems, flooring, boiler replacements, and much much more.  They're all in there.  Again back to 2010. Probably even longer, but that's as far back as was on the website.

Take a look that far back and notice which items were slated to be addressed that year or forthcoming years, but were not funded with budgeted capital funds (which often don't exist), and therefore needed to be addressed in "crisis" fashion by a Town Meeting vote to borrow the money.

I hope this clears things up, not that it will change a thing.  

- Mike F.

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