HORICON – The 2009-2010 school year marked a new beginning for the food service program in the Horicon School District and Monday the district took another step forward.
Taher Professional Food Service Management, based out of Minnetonka, Minn., took over the district’s program at the start of the current school year and on Feb. 8 switched to PIN code debit accounts for students.
“We put our food service program out for bid when our food service director retired a year ago,” said Gary Berger, superintendent of the Horicon School District. “Taher got that bid and we’ve been working with them now for this school year.”
A number of factors contributed to the district hiring a corporate management program including staff changes and declining enrollment.
“We were losing money in our food service program, in fact we were losing close to $50,000 a year,” Berger said. “The revenue did not keep up with the expenses.”
Last year, Horicon sent out bids to five different food service companies of which Taher took the $284,000 budgeted contract. It is a $2,000 budget reduction compared to the 2008-2009 school year. Thus far, the new food program is going over well.
“Overall the response from the students has been excellent,” Berger said. “They like the variety; they like the changes, so we’re really excited about that.”
The biggest changes seen are at Horicon High School where Taher gives students many more options to choose from during lunch.
“The high school is based on a food court setup,” said Trista Ryan, food service director for the Horicon School District employed by Taher. “So far it’s been pretty good they’ve adapted very well, and I think it’s been a very positive experience for the students as well as the staff.”
There are five separate stations of food plus an ala carte section which ranges from pizza to buffalo chicken wraps to Panini. Taher also prides itself on using ingredients that are zero trans fat and contain no MSG. Much of the specialty items on the monthly menu are created by Chef Jay Rommelfanger who works with 11 different school districts.
“He comes in once a month and he makes a different item usually something the kids aren’t used to getting in a school setting,” Ryan said.
Monday, Rommelfanger stopped by to make sweet Italian sausage calzini for the students at the high school. New and plentiful options like these seem to impact students at Horicon positively.
“I think the food is better here than it was last year,” said Jessica Doss, a senior at Horicon High School who eats hot lunch at the school regularly.
The change to debit accounts at the district came in the second half of the year to make the transition to the new program easier, which Berger thinks will also be easier for parents to keep track of and maintain.
“We’ve been operating with a ticket system forever and most school district went away from a ticket system years ago,” Berger said. “It’ll be much easier in the long run. There’s a lot more flexibility; it makes it a lot more convenient.”
By Megan Sheridan