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By SUSAN LEATHERS

Brentwood Home Page

A disgruntled Sunset Middle parent recently wrote BHP asking about new cafeteria charges for condiments and plastic flatware at the school.

By SUSAN LEATHERS

Brentwood Home Page

A disgruntled Sunset Middle parent recently wrote BHP asking about new cafeteria charges for condiments and plastic flatware at the school. He forwarded a copy of a recent student newsletter: 

“A Note From the Cafeteria: Students who bring their lunch from home must pay for condiments and plastic ware from the cafeteria. The following prices will apply: cups – .10, plastic ware – .05, plates – .25,  condiments – .10,  honey mustard or ranch dressing – .25.”

We asked Carol Birdsong, Williamson County Schools spokesperson, about the charges. She didn’t have the answer but put on her investigative reporter cap on to get the scoop.

“Here’s what I found out,” Birdsong emailed. “We feed 18,000 students daily,” she wrote of the number of students who buy their  lunch at home. That leaves another 13,500-plus who pack their lunches.

“There have been some areas of concern in the cafeterias with waste, so the food service department asked principals/café managers to work with the lunchroom monitors to educate them on costs of those supplies (napkins, spoons, mustard, mayo) and to work with them on monitoring the distribution of condiments/forks/spoons.

“The cafeterias will not deny any child, but they will be monitoring in an effort to work one-on-one with students who bring their lunch and are requesting condiments and/or utensils on a daily basis. A child who brings soup for lunch and forgets his spoon will certainly be given a spoon that day. The request by food service was district wide at all grade levels,” Birdsong explained.

The part that gets sticky – the fees – comes in when you learn how much each of those condiment packets costs each self-funded school cafeteria. Each mayonnaise packet costs a cafeteria 11 cents. Mustard and ketchup packages are three cents each. A fork, napkin and straw are also three cents. That sounds like pennies but multiply it by 13,500 and you get the picture.

“Remember that our cafeterias are self funding,” Birdsong said, “so they have to make enough money to cover expenses while not making large profits. Any profits are reinvesting into equipment, supplies for food preparation/storage, etc.

“ They do count pennies, and when you are talking about mayo, ketchup, etc., it does add up and can add up quickly without appropriate monitoring.”

So parents, the easy answer is to stock up on condiment packages at home and put them in the brown bag. Or send an extra quarter along with the milk money. Nothing in life is simple anymore, except maybe a PBJ sandwich. We can’t think of any extra condiments needed with that classic.

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