Latest CRREO brief looks at food services in County schools

Food ServicesThe Center for Research, Regional Engagement and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz and the Ulster County School Boards Association (UCSBA) have released the fifth policy brief in their series examining County schooling, A 2020 Vision for Public Education in Ulster County.

Titled “Food Services: The potential for sharing among Ulster County school districts,” this brief explores the provision of school meals in Ulster County within the current regulatory framework of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It is authored by Robin Jacobowitz, director of education projects at CRREO, New Paltz student Micaela Kayser ’15 (Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies) and Ruth Quinn, former vice president of the New Paltz Central School District.

“Meals for kids in Ulster County schools cost just shy of $10 million last year,” the report begins. “About half of this ($4.9 million) was paid for by taxpayers in the form of federal and state reimbursements. In the overall picture of school budgets, food service is not a big ticket. It is just 2% of the total spent in the county on education in 2013-14 ($519,155,596) and less than the amount raised from local taxes ($309,631,685).

The percentage may be small, but every nickel counts. Costs of education keep rising and the lid on local revenues will be even tighter next year. Collaboration and efficiency may help us save some of this money. And savings made here then do not need to be made elsewhere, perhaps creating a margin to protect the job of a teacher or another school employee.”

The research suggests that regionalizing some food service functions may provide efficiencies that ease the financial burden that many Ulster County school districts are facing while also allowing them to deliver more healthful food to students.

CRREO director Gerald Benjamin said, “This is an important addition to a growing array of studies that shows how regional thinking can open up new ways for delivering education, the most important local service for our communities. By being smart together, learning from the experience of others and approaching our challenges cooperatively, we will build community and sustain educational excellence at a price we can afford.”

The policy brief, the 15th to be released by CRREO since its inception, can be accessed and read in its entirety by following this link.

The CRREO/UCSBA series of A 2020 Vision for Public Education in Ulster County briefs is a broad ranging effort to support innovation and positive change in Ulster County schooling. The partnership seeks to promote countywide, regional thinking among the eight Ulster County school districts—Ellenville, Highland, Kingston, New Paltz, Onteora, Rondout Valley, Saugerties and Wallkill—with the goal of enriching educational opportunity for students and managing service delivery as efficiently as possible. Rather than piecing sharing together, service by service, Ulster County school districts are developing a way to think – collectively – about how to go down this road together. This will allow them to maintain control over the character, shape, and extent of their collaborative efforts.

Independently and in collaboration with local governments, business and not-for-profits in the Hudson Valley, the CRREO’s research mission is to: conduct studies on topics of regional interest; bring visibility and focus to these matters; foster communities working together to better serve citizenry; and advance the public interest in our region.

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