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Frazee School food service is improving

Laura Bjerke, director of dining services with Chartwell Food Service, said the company's transition to Frazee-Vergas School District "started out a little rough."

After long-time kitchen supervisor Rita Slupe retired last year and the district decided to contract out with Chartwells instead of hiring to replace Slupe, Bjerke said she received a lot of resignations from kitchen staff. Chartwells hired new staff and started training people to cook.

Since then, she said, they have implemented most of the program in the elementary school and in the high school.

She said that they surveyed about 163 high schoolers (about 58 percent) and feedback was "overall really positive."

When asked in the survey what the company could provide, Bjerke said the student gave some suggestions -- more pasta dishes and the return of the pizza burgers -- and some that just won't be happening -- like shrimp and ribs.

She added that the USDA just released new guidelines, and they were "looser on some of the things than they said they would be."

One of the changes was that kids are required to take a fruit or vegetable serving as one of their three choices of foods. Bjerke said 20 percent of students aren't taking any fruits or vegetables.

She's hoping that instead of having to serve the kids, educating them and parents will solve the problem.

She said overall the participation in the lunch program has increased each month, and the breakfast participation has decreased. She said that's likely because there are no longer sweets -- rolls and donuts -- available in the morning as there was in the past.

She said she's working with the elementary students as well, although it's harder to get feedback from the younger kids.

Superintendent Chuck Cheney said that the board will be reviewing the program and the contract in the next few months to decide if the district wants to renew the contract.