School Lunch Privatization Roundup

ALBION—The move to privatize has come to Albion Public Schools, where officials have hired Chartwell's, Inc. to run their meals program. While the school has not been losing money with its current program, district business manager Jim Behling says he hopes to give students a bigger and better selection while improving efficiency and thereby saving—and making—more money.

While Behling does not know how much the district hopes to save and wouldn't make a prediction, he has reason to be hopeful. Nearby Coldwater Public Schools have contracted with Chartwell's for the past two years and the lunch program has gone from a $13,000 deficit to a fund balance of $57,683.

Meanwhile, the Grand Blanc Community School Board has voted to hire Chartwell's, not for the entire food service management package, but for a new food services director to oversee their current program.

And in the Kalamazoo area, Parchment School District's food service workers were denied an injunction they had hoped would forestall a district plan to fully privatize the food service program there. Workers wanted the district to wait until an unfair-labor-practices-claim against the schools, now pending before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, was settled before implementing the privatization program.

As things now stand, it will be up to the private company that runs the schools' food services, Nutrition Services, to decide which, if any, of the current employees it wants to hire when full privatization is in place.