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Ultra Bread Slice was the main breakfast selection at West Side

Would you send your child to a school that served an Ultra Bread Slice for breakfast?

Contributed By:The 411 News

West Side Leadership Academy students and parents dissatisfied with quality of student meals

Foods served in school cafeterias have long been the butt of jokes, targets of scorn. Now, the Gary Community School Corp is feeling the heat from West Side Leadership Academy’s parents and students, dissatisfied with the quality of breakfast and lunch menus that have left them with no confidence in district officials.

“Would you send your child to a school that served an Ultra Bread Slice for breakfast?” West Side senior class president Samuel Coleman asked when the Distressed Unit Appeal Board visited Gary to hold its October meeting.

Coleman was followed by his mother, Atty. Tracy Coleman, who asked the DUAB panel to compare the menus at West Side with those for the Valparaiso school district. Atty. Coleman, an active member of the West Side PTSA, said West Side students deserved the variety of menu choices as in Valparaiso.

Valparaiso High School was likely the arguing point for Atty. Coleman and others because GCSC Manager Paige McNulty lives in Valparaiso.

On the day West Side served her son Samuel “a bread slice, applesauce cup, and milk,” Coleman said students at Valparaiso High School selected from a list of items that were more than double what was available at West Side.

Compared with meals served in nearby school districts, breakfast and lunch offerings in the Gary school district are slim, although they meet the requirements of the federal National School Lunch Program that subsidizes students meals.

For West Side students to receive food choices like in Valparaiso will depend on costs. The biggest expense in providing student meals is not the food; it is salaries and benefits of food service workers.

For the last 10 years, the Gary school district has been in a deep cost cutting curve, as it has lost tax revenues and students. The district closed schools; food service, custodial, and maintenance staffs were outsourced.

With a successful 2020 referendum that increased property tax revenues for schools and federal pandemic stimulus monies, the Gary school district is now in its best financial shape in nearly 2 decades.

Residents posed the question at the October DUAB meeting, “Why can’t you do better now you have all that money?”

Since 2015, Sodexo Magic has operated Gary’s food service program. Valparaiso’s food service program is district operated.

The state-run school district renewed a one-year contract with Sodexo Magic in September at a cost of $3.7 million dollars to provide meals for Gary’s 4,770 students. And it will be up to the DUAB and Manager McNulty to offer more choices.

Posted on the GCSC Facebook page on November 9, “To address the concerns of food options for our scholars, we'd thought we'd share some of the changes we're making! Here are some of the meals from Banneker Elementary at Marquette this week.”

The DUAB just announced a November 17th meeting to address the concerns voiced at the October 14th meeting in Gary. That meeting will be held in Indianapolis and can be viewed online at https://in.gov/duab.


West Side students took these photos of their school lunches


West Side breakfast and Valparaiso High breakfast

Story Posted:11/12/2021

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