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School Board wants better than the usual cafeteria food
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot ^ | 12/26/03 | Deirdre Fernandes

Posted on 12/28/2003 10:11:32 AM PST by Holly_P

PORTSMOUTH — School cafeteria food has long suffered a bad rep among students, but in Portsmouth some unusual voices are joining the chorus of complainers.

Members of the School Board are grumbling about the food prepared by the division’s cooks and served at their biweekly meetings. The rolls may be buttery and the vegetables tasty, but the chicken is bland, and the desserts disappointing, the food critics say.

Some board members have informally discussed dropping the division’s food services and hiring local downtown restaurants to cater the meetings.

“This is going downhill,” Chairwoman Elizabeth N. “Betty” Hudgins said about her meal at a recent board meeting.

Hudgins said next year she wants the board to mull over switching caterers. Hudgins suggested hiring different downtown restaurants to prepare food for each meeting. Chinese for one meeting, Italian for the next.

“I would like to support our downtown businesses,” she said.

The division would have to study the cost of using outside vendors, Hudgins added. Not everybody is ready to drop the division’s cooks.

Board member Elizabeth Daniels said the board should be more specific about what it wants to eat.

“If you don’t specify what you want, you’re going to get the stuff nobody else wants,” she said.

Cost and loyalty enticed the School Board earlier this year to use school cooks to cater meetings. From July to November the division spent about $1,150 on food for the nine board members and a handful of administrators. When the board used an outside vendor a year ago it spent $2,400 for the same number of meals.

School boards in Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Norfolk also use their division’s cafeteria services to cater their meals. The menus are similar to Portsmouth’s.

The cafeteria meals follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s traditional food pyramid and consist of a meat, vegetable, potato, roll and dessert.

In Portsmouth, the food is prepared the afternoon of the meeting in the kitchens of local schools. The meals are similar to what students receive in the lunchroom but designed for adults, said Kenneth L. Billue, the coordinator of the division’s cafeteria and food services division. Students may get chicken nuggets, while board members get chicken fillets.

“It’s generally the standards; it’s nothing fancy,” Billue said. In an age of dieting, whether it’s Atkins or South Beach, the standard foods are losing ground.

It would be an improvement “even if they did a tureen of soup and a nice piece of bread and tossed greens. That’s basic stuff,” said board member Mark R. DiVenuti, the former director of catering at Portsmouth’s Renaissance Hotel. “You don’t want to sit there with a big full stomach and a full agenda. And depending what the agenda is you don’t want to have to reach for the Rolaids.”

Billue said he is willing to change the menu if he gets any requests, and it’s the School Board’s prerogative to change caterers.

Reach Deirdre Fernandes at 222-5121 or deirdre.fernandes@

TOPICS: Culture/Society; US: Virginia
KEYWORDS: portsmouth; schoollunch

1 posted on 12/28/2003 10:11:32 AM PST by Holly_P
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To: Holly_P
Aw, man - doing away with 'mystery meat' would be like doing away with apple pie....LOL
2 posted on 12/28/2003 10:15:43 AM PST by Viking2002
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To: Holly_P
Well aren't they special. If it is good enough for the kids.....
3 posted on 12/28/2003 10:16:55 AM PST by CindyDawg
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To: CindyDawg
"Well aren't they special. If it is good enough for the kids....."

I'll do ya one better....How about this novel concept: BUY THEIR OWN LUNCH, LIKE WE ALL DO!
4 posted on 12/28/2003 10:18:20 AM PST by At _War_With_Liberals (Illegal Immigration/Amnesty- The administrations' War on Middle Class Republicans)
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To: Holly_P
I say that they can eat whatever they want. I don't care who's food they serve, how it's prepared or what type or year wine they want with their meal. As long as they pay for that meal, it's fine by me. If they don't like the food that the taxpayer's providing, go eat somewhere else, or bring a sandwich. Sounds like a new board should be elected.
5 posted on 12/28/2003 10:20:23 AM PST by Hodar (With Rights, comes Responsibilities. Don't assume one, without assuming the other.)
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To: At _War_With_Liberals

Or better yet - brown bag it.

6 posted on 12/28/2003 10:20:44 AM PST by Holly_P
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To: Holly_P
At $2400.00 a year, that would come to a little over $5.00 per meal, if they met every week. I imagine the cost of a school lunch is less than $2.00, and I don't think school boards meet but once a month in most places.
7 posted on 12/28/2003 10:40:34 AM PST by itsahoot (The lesser of two evils, is evil still...Alan Keyes)
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To: Holly_P
If their meetins are so long they need lunch then they ought to "break for lunch" like the rest of us do....
Drive downtown buy a meal...brown bag it...go without....hit the MickeyDees drivethough...

No wonder public education is so mired...with shepherds like this...the whole flock is lost
8 posted on 12/28/2003 11:09:44 AM PST by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: joesnuffy
Worked a quarter century in the food industry. One job was managing a hospital foodservice. Every day, 5 days a week we catered food to 5-10 "meetings" throughout the facility.

Coffee is one thing but I always wondered why EVERYTIME more than two people got togther in the same room they had to have a salad, sandwich and dessert at least.

All the while the in house foodservice department fed 1200 employees lunches through a cafeteria line and a separate "doctors" dining room.

Want to know why so many are overweight? Not because they sit so much but because everytime they sit they eat.
9 posted on 12/28/2003 11:21:06 AM PST by Deepest South
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