Boston Schools Close Salad Bars To Cut Losses

Rather than continue to lose money on expenses, some Boston-area schools have closed their cafeteria salad bars, which were part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s plan to combat childhood obesity with healthier school lunches four years ago.

According to an article by James Vaznis for The Boston Globe, the Boston School Department’s food services program lost $3.6 million last year and is on pace to do so again this year.

Boston School Department Brian Ballou said in a statement that  “a high cost associated with the salad bar service” prompted the food program to close them and that the School Department also had difficulties meeting state and local health regulations to operate them.

The reports come on the heels of news last week that the food services program as a whole has lost $21 million over the past eight years, that school officials don’t let cafeteria workers know about student allergies and that the workers “feel bullied” by their superiors.

Interim Superintendent John McDonough said that the discovery of these problems is both “hard-hitting” and “disturbing.” He claimed that the school department is making a plan to address some of the issues, including having the finance division in charge of food services rather than operations.

While McDonough has been transparent in his dealings with the media concerning the woes of the food program, he made it clear last week that he is not the long-term answer, according to an article by The Globe’s Vaznis.

McDonough, 62, received a vote of confidence last week from the Boston School Board, but reiterated that he is only staying on until a permanent replacement can be found. McDonough stepped into the interim slot when Carol R. Johnson retired in the summer of 2013.

“I’m extraordinarily humbled by it and I am overwhelmed by people’s expression of support and confidence in my leadership,” said McDonough, who makes $250,000 annually. “But I think five or 10 years [in this job] is beyond my scope.”

McDonough was candid in his reaction when news of the salad bar issue broke.

“I was taken by surprise to hear about it,” McDonough said. “I don’t think it was an appropriate action. We should be expanding rather than reducing salad bars in the schools.”

The salad bars themselves were donated to the Boston schools and cost about $2,600 per bar. They have a life expectancy of 10 years. It has been revealed that campuses such as Curley K-8 in Jamaica Plain not only stopped stocking the salad bar last September, but also reinstated the selling of snacks such as cookies and chips.

Ballou said all snacks being sold in the schools meet both state and local nutritional guidelines for inclusion on campuses.