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Richmond Public Schools set to overhaul school meals with $12.9 million contract

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 1:37 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2021 at 5:48 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond Public School’s cold, prepackaged meals are getting an overhaul. Monday, the division’s school board is expected to farm out the service to the tune of $12.9 million.

“It’s no surprise to anyone that we continue to experience real deficiency relevant to the quality of food that we are providing our students in Richmond Public Schools,” said Jonathan Young, Richmond School Board.

The move comes after complaints from students and parents about what’s being served inside the division. Parents complained to NBC12 last month about the issue.

“The food was not edible. The meals were sometimes not fully thawed,” said Emily Kavanaugh, a Richmond Public School parent.

“They sent me a picture of school lunch and said, ‘This is what we’re getting for lunch.’ and I was like ‘hm, interesting,” said Betsy Milburn, a Richmond Public School parent.

At the start of the school year, the district decided against hot lunches and is serving grab and go meals to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in lunch lines. Young estimates the division is wasting $30,000 a day on sub par meals which are then thrown out.

“It’s just not adequate and because of it students are throwing away thousands of dollars of food. Again I can’t fault them for it but it’s really, it’s just really unconscionable,” said Young.

On Monday, the board will vote on finding a third-party vendor to prepare meals. Young says the third-party vendor is expected to prepare meals off-site daily and bring them to each school building. School staff would then be in charge of warming items and serving students.

“Our expectation is by the end of October students will be served, again, hot meals. So we want to end these cold prepackaged meals,” said Young.

Another factor at play is cafeteria staff. Young says they are having a hard time hiring people.. One Richmond high school cafeteria is operating with a quarter of its normal staff right now.

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