Food Service Workers React To Privatization Proposal

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Panama City- Members of the Bay Educational Support Personnel Association, or BESPA, are reacting to the news that the school district will consider privatizing food services.

Superintendent Bill Husfelt announced this recommendation Wednesday afternoon.

School board members will consider a contract with Chartwells School Dining, a nationwide institutional food provider, which already services Bay Medical Center.

The proposed contract requires Chartwells to hire all of the current lunchroom workers, but many are concerned about the proposal.
District officials say the privatization is necessary to save money.

"We'll save about 750 thousand dollars in the first year of the contract," said Husfelt.

The news still took support workers by surprise.

"To actually be told that food service is being recommended for privatization was kind of a shock," said Jacquelynn Rivers, the BESPA president.

Rivers claims food services is not a drain on the school district’s budget.

"Our department is not in the red and we've been generating money," said Rivers.

The BESPA president believes there are still other options to be considered.

"I think we're willing to make changes. If we have to give more money to the general fund, I think our department is willing to do that."

Despite assurances from the district, the proposal has many food service workers concerned about their jobs and benefits.

"All the insecurity that's been going on, all the talk had everybody so nervous. It's like they couldn't focus on what they needed to be doing and that was to serve nutritious meals to the kids here," said Brenda Manning, a Cafeteria Manager.

Husfelt claims he is not pursuing transportation privatization at this time due to time constraints.

School board members will hold a public workshop on the food services contract proposal on Tuesday, June 19th, at 5 PM.

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