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IHC starts new lunch program

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Immaculate Heart Central School District is bagging school lunches so primary and intermediate students don’t have to.

After the Watertown City School District gave notice in December that the youngest pupils in the parochial school system no longer would be sent hot lunch, administrators scrambled to find an alternative program. For the rest of the year, lunches will consist of cold sandwiches, sent from the IHC junior/senior high school, and the occasional pizza.

Although the Watertown district promised hot lunches through Thursday, IHC’s new program began Wednesday.

“The idea is to have something in place and enhance the program as we move forward,” IHC Executive Systems Administrator Christopher E. Hornbarger said. “I think parents are pleased, more pleased than when we weren’t going to serve lunch.”

Craig P. Orvis, Watertown food service director, originally planned to withdraw the program after Dec. 21, after calculating that daily lunch participation had dropped by half at the primary school and by nearly 30 percent at the intermediate school.

“What it boils down to is it’s a business decision, but we’re dealing with kids,” Mr. Orvis said in a previous interview.

Watertown began providing lunch for the primary building in November 2001 and for the intermediate building in September 2002.

The school will serve Little Caesars pizza on Mondays and charge $1 per slice, and cold lunches for the rest of the week. Cold lunch includes a sandwich, chips, fruit and milk or juice, and will cost $2 per meal.

Turkey and cheese, ham and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be made in the junior/senior high school cafeteria. They can be stored for up to two days in the primary and intermediate school cafeteria refrigerators, Mr. Hornbarger said.

Mr. Hornbarger said previously that the elementary buildings have only warming facilities that are not capable of creating enough food for the students.

Regular and chocolate milk in addition to apple juice also will be available daily, la carte.

Because Watertown City School District is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture lunch program, it was able to provide lunch for the IHC students who qualified for free and reduced-price lunches and be reimbursed for the service. IHC is dropping the price for families in need, but cannot be reimbursed for giving a child a free meal.

“Free and reduced lunch program is no longer supported,” according to a statement sent to parents by IHC Elementary School Principal Gary F. West. “IHC is doing its best to support students who participate in the program. Students who received free lunches will be asked to pay $.50; students who received reduced lunch will be asked to pay $1.00.”

Mr. West said he would be willing to work with families if they were going through a rough phase, however.

“I want to thank Watertown City School District for working with us through the month of January,” Mr. West said.

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