ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) — Students returning to the classroom for hybrid learning in the Rochester City School District will not be eating hot lunches, as the district continues to offer grab and go meals. Frustration is growing among parents and education groups who say students deserve better.
Hot lunches have not been offered to students since last year, according to district officials, who say they are too expensive without more students or staff in the buildings.
The below picture circulating social media claims to show what RCSD students were offered for lunch as elementary students started hybrid learning. An online petition is calling for a change.
Parents like Anthony Hall say it’s disappointing.
“Putting children back in the building with inadequate services as it relates to the food service, or any other service, it’s just a disadvantage for our children,” Hall said.
The district says grab and go lunch has been the norm since the start of the pandemic, due to layoffs and budget constraints. The picture below shows what was offered to students for lunch on Tuesday, according to district officials.
“We have not served hot lunches since we have been back for in-person learning (Jan 5). Remember we only had approximately 300 students return in Phase 1, and now approximately 4,100 students in Phase 2 (who started Monday). We don’t have enough students in our buildings to offset the staff it takes to make hot meals. We are serving meals that are approved by federal guidelines, and I attached a picture of the meal that was served yesterday (ham sandwich, apple slices, crackers, and a juice box). “
— Brendan O’Riordan, Director of Information, Rochester City School District
The President for the Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees Union says it not just how many employees were laid off, but the loss of qualified cooking staff that is leaving the district without options for hot meals.
“The cook manager profession is needed because they hold the certification in order to comply with health codes to cook hot food in the kitchens,” said Dan DiClemente, President BENTE.
DiClemente believes by focusing on hires in this group, the district can find a way to offer hot meals.
“I believe that there is a solution to this that we can work with districts then or even have cook managers at the sites where there is a cook manger to cook food and maybe they can deliver the hot meals to the other schools,” said DiClemente.
A handful of food service workers were hired as part of a board of education meeting Tuesday night.
District officials also said then that if more students return to buildings, they will consider more hires, which could lead to hot lunches.
It is important to note that all meals offered in RCSD, whether hot or cold, do comply with federal nutrition guidelines.