Parents complain about school lunch program


Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING – Several parents voiced their concern over what they said were inadequate portion sizes and long lines at lunch at the Ishpeming school board meeting Monday night.

Jason Collister said during public comment that while his children hadn’t personally experienced any problems with school lunches, he had seen several parents report on Facebook that their kids waited for as long as 20 minutes to get to the front of the line, only to discover several items on the menu had run out.

Board President Geno Maino expressed a distaste for social media and what he said were often false ideas spread online, but said the school is addressing the issue.

“I hate Facebook,” he said. “No one is saying they’ve experienced this firsthand.”

Rebecca Johnson also addressed the board, saying her daughter who is in sixth grade has only eaten hot lunch twice, bringing her lunch to school with her most days, because the lines were too long, the portion sizes too small and she wasn’t getting enough food.

Ishpeming Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dan Paul said the schools had been experiencing some food service program problems, but chalked it up to a glitch of the first couple weeks of school.

He said that with the new food service director, some days ran a little late, but he had a meeting last Thursday and the problems have been addressed.

Negaunee Public Schools – which operates the lunch programs for both Negaunee and Ishpeming schools – in August hired a new food service director from Chartwells, a private United Kingdom-based company that has contracts to run the lunch programs at more than 500 public schools in the united States.

The decision to hire the food services director was made amidst controversy after the Negaunee school board decided not to contract Chartwells to run its entire program – which would have meant laying off union support staff – but to hire a director from the company after interviews with other potential candidates familiar with the district’s lunch program raised doubts among board members regarding their level of experience.

Ishpeming Middle/High School principal Vicki Lempinen and board Secretary Robert Nadeau said they, too, had received several complaints from students about long lines and inadequate portions.

“It kind of depends on the day, and we called and tried to get those (things) resolved,” Lempinen said.

Lempinen attributed the long lines partly to the fifth-grade students, who she said are getting used to a new system in which they have to key in their PIN number to get lunch.

The school board also approved motions appointing a handful of staff to various positions, including an athletic director, an elementary special education aide, two assistant junior varsity football coaches and changes in class advisers for all but the senior class.

Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is