Cafeteria workers protest possible new lunch program

By Crystal Price - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Cafeteria workers from all over the lake area protested outside the Calcasieu Parish School Board facility this afternoon as board members taste-tested samples from a food service company.

A few members of the board were invited to a food tasting on Tuesday afternoon because the private company was already in town for a convention.

Preferred Meals, Inc. is currently providing meals to schools in 26 states, including Louisiana.

Assistant Superintendent Gary Anderson also said the meals are not TV dinners, and that they are similar to what the students are already eating in Calcasieu Parish.

"We prepare frozen foods in our cafeteria right now," said Anderson. "We get our fish from New York and our pizzas from Minnesota. But everything meets nutritional guidelines set by the federal government."

Assistant Superintendent Gary Anderson says PMI currently serves public schools in Morehouse parish, and has saved them thousands of dollars.

"The participation in meals has gone up at least 300 meals a day that district," said Anderson. "So the students there like that kind of food."

The current food service program in Calcasieu parish is losing money and the board is considering this type of lunch program.

"To be more efficient you have to reduce food or reduce staff," said Anderson. "Through this company we're able to do both."

While the board members met inside the building, outside cafeteria workers protest the idea of Preferred Meals.

"They don't need my little $642.00 a month and my insurance, okay," said Georgie Fontenot, a cafeteria worker from Moss Bluff Middle School.

However, their jobs are not their only concern.

"Mainly it is the food that the kids are going to be eating," said Jean Selph, a cafeteria worker from Western Heights.

Many concerned parents and cooks fear the food will not be as nutritious as the current school lunches.

"I really feel along with some other people that they've already made their minds up," said Selph. "We're here to ask them not to do this."

If there is a proposal to privatize the school lunch program in Calcasieu parish, the issue would have to be discussed at the Administration and Personnel meeting on March 23.  That meeting is open to the public.

If the A & P committee comes up with a proposal, it would then have to be approved by the full board at its April 23 meeting.

Principals of all Calcasieu parish schools will be given the latest information at their regular meeting tomorrow morning.

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