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Questioning School Lunches

May 11, 1986

As a parent of a school-age child, I am particularly dismayed at the current shenanigans of the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education with respect to the firing of food services director Ed Dodd. As reported in (The Times May 1), it appears that the board is guilty of shooting the bearer of bad news.

Dodd disagrees with his superior, business services administrator Rory Livingston, over how to rectify the shocking loss of $700,000 over the past two years in the district's lunch program. This "insubordination" causes him to be fired, but his superior, Livingston, offers no apologies or reasons as to why such losses were incurred and the board apparently demands none of him.

Livingston's answer to this appalling situation is to raise the cost of a hot lunch, at a time when increasing numbers of students are already not buying lunch (in the school cafeteria)! I may not know all the fiscal ins and outs of the district's food service, but on its face this seems like a solution that's doomed to failure.

It appears that all parties involved have lost sight of the big picture. What is the primary business of a school district? To educate children or to feed them? I realize that many low-income children depend on the hot-lunch program to provide, perhaps, their one decent meal of the day. But supposedly federal funds are available for this purpose. Have such funds been inadequate or has our district simply mismanaged them? And who says that only a hot lunch affords good nutrition? Thousands of schools across this nation--especially elementary schools-- have cafeterias that sell only nutritious cold foods--sandwiches, cheese, fruits, milk, etc. A hot food service is not a necessity; school libraries are!

The $700,000 that the district's food service has lost over the past two years could have covered the cost of the salaries of the six librarians that were recently fired three times over!

If this district can't run a hot-food service that operates in the black, it should get out and back into its primary business--education, and that includes libraries staffed by librarians!



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