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Opaa, it’s here to stay

Staff writer

Compliments and complaints vie for supremacy regarding the contracted company that provides breakfasts and lunches at Marion, Peabody-Burns, and Centre schools, but it appears that it is here to stay.

Opaa Food Management, a large company headquartered in Missouri, makes food purchases and employs cooks who prepare the food. Schools make payments for meals served.

Some students have complained about the quantity of food offered.

“I feel like we need more food,” said PBHS senior Bryant Young. “A lot of the time the main problem is not having enough. Some of the food could be better, but it’s not all bad. I don’t mind it.”

One mother who asked not to be identified said her active son doesn’t complain about the food except that it isn’t enough. She said a big person involved in sports might need more calories than a smaller, less active person, but her son makes up for it in the evening after school or practice by eating a big meal at home.

“I don’t care for the chicken patties we have every Wednesday and wish they would switch it up a bit, but I like the nachos,” PB eighth grader Mya Winter said.

“I like Opaa,” Kate Basore of Centre High School said. “I like the variety.”

Joann Stuchlik of Pilsen, whose children attend Marion schools, said they often pack their own lunches. It seems to be because they don’t like the choices Opaa offers on some days.

Peabody-Burns is in its second year with Opaa. Superintendent Ron Traxson said it’s hard for a small crew to provide the variety that Opaa offers students. They have a choice of three entrees, with one being a full salad bar.

Opaa provides training for its employees and takes care of purchasing and preparations. There still is paperwork and Opaa has to be paid for the meals it serves, but costs are about the same, Traxson said.

“It makes things simpler,” he said. “The first year was a little shaky when the food service director was killed in a car accident, but they helped us through it. The board is pleased with it, and I don’t see it going anywhere.”

A visit to the lunchroom at Marion Middle/High School Friday revealed a salad bar stocked with a wide variety of raw vegetables and fruit. The main food line also had a lettuce salad along with a couple of fruit choices. Students have the option daily to choose the salad bar or a full menu.

The head cook wasn’t open to answering questions and didn’t want cooks to be photographed. Students weren’t allowed to express opinions because their parents weren’t with them to grant permission. A food service supervisor was on hand to watch as students went through the line.

Cooks at Centre and Peabody schools were instructed to funnel all questions through Opaa headquarters. Their responses were not available at press time.

On its website, Opaa says it is a family-owned company and that all of its food is prepared from scratch. Opaa follows nutritional guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act 2010. The new regulations were implemented in the 2012-13 school year. The act sets dietary specifications for calories, fat, trans fat, and sodium.

The company seeks suppliers who follow strict animal welfare policies. It also supports green efforts of school districts to provide local produce.

Contracts with school districts are up for renewal every spring.

Last modified Jan. 25, 2018

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