Following a recommendation from district business administrator Adam Steel, the Windham School Board voted unanimously on April 3 to discontinue The Abbey Group as the food service provider for the schools.
The district will begin its own food service operation next fall, something that has never been done before in Windham. According to Steel, it's a move that is actually the most common thing in New Hampshire schools.
By severing ties with the Abbey Group, which is based out of Vermont, the hiring process for a food service director will begin almost immediately.
That employee will be eligibile for state retirment, and Steel said that the industry standard is also to have the director's medical insurance included.
A lot will stay the same with the turnover. The same software will be used including the online payment option that is currently in existence.
Steel also noted that the food preparation process will remain the same.
"Right now all the food is prepared at Windham High School and is brought to the other schools," he said. "That model will continue."
Breakfast and after school food will also still be offered.
The district will look for the individuals who did a good job this year and try to hire them on for next year.
Chairman Bruce Anderson said he was livid with the Abbey Group, who he said promised a minimum profit of $25,000 to the district last year that never came.
"It's sad that this group wasn't able to deliver a better quality product that kids wanted to buy," he said.
Before the Abbey Group, participation in the food service program at Golden Brook School was 60 percent. That number dropped to 41 percent.
Steel said that he was confident that the district will not be put in the hole by developing its own operation.
He added that prices for lunches will increase again this year, which has to happen if the town wants to continue to participate in the federal lunch program.
An announcement on Windham Patch when the lunch prices increased back in August explained the reason.
The Federal government passed a law, the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, that requires all school districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program to gradually increase hot lunch prices over time. The goal of this Federal legislation is to equalize the price of a hot lunch with the amount of money the Federal government reimburses Districts for students who receive a free lunch.
Steel said that the district will try to be cognicent of what student's want.
"It's about marketing and collaboration and being customer focused," he said.