Charter school to establish food service program


OTWELL — The Otwell Miller Academy board took a big step toward establishing a food service program at the Pike County charter school Monday night.

At a special meeting, the board approved contracting Top Cuts Consulting of Washington to handle menus and paperwork for the food service program, which would serve daily breakfast for $1.10 and lunch for $2.85.

Now, school administrators are surveying families to see how many would be interested in the meals and soliciting bids from contractors to renovate the current cafeteria to include a kitchen.

“A very ambitious plan would be serving by middle to late February,” said Otwell Miller Academy Director Rich Padgett.

So far, the survey has garnered a handful of positive responses.

The next steps will be installing the kitchen, which will include a convection oven and a stove. Padgett said he’s talked to a few contractors who believe the renovation could be completed in a few days. Now, he’s waiting for official bids from companies for the work. Once the kitchen is in place, the school will contract with a food service company to get food that the staff can heat and serve. Meals won’t be made from scratch.

Former Otwell Miller Academy Director Rick Fears began the process of setting up a food service program for the school in 2017. Since then, the school has been working closely with the Indiana Department of Education to set up a food service program that meets the requirements for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s free and reduced lunch program.

Padgett said he doubts the school will qualify to offer free and reduced lunch this year, simply because of all the steps involved in setting up such a program.

Still, the food service program that Padgett hopes to begin in February will follow the same standards as programs at schools that do offer free and reduced lunch. That way, Padgett said, as soon as the program takes hold, Otwell Miller Academy can start the process of adding free and reduced lunch services.

Padgett said that about 60 percent of Otwell Miller Academy families qualify for free and reduced lunch, as determined by household incomes. Once free and reduced lunch is available, Padgett expects most of those families to participate.

“Really the target down the road is to relieve some stress for those families,” Padgett said.

To begin, Padgett said the school hopes to have about 50 percent of its students participate in the food service program.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also approved contracting with Westfield-based Indiana Charters for accounting and payroll. The move will bring the work under the same umbrella and save the school some money, Padgett said.

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