Tanana school district flies in school lunches

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Tanana is putting a whole new spin on distance delivery.

The Tanana City School District has contracted with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District to deliver up to 80 school lunches by plane for its students.

Tanana closed its school kitchen this year after falling enrollment -- and thus declining funding -- made it financially impossible to keep it open, superintendent Gayla Hodges said.

The district spent nearly $68,000 last year on its school lunch program, which serves students in kindergarten through high school, Hodges said. That's out of a $1.3 million yearly school operating budget.

''We just couldn't support it in our budget,'' Hodges told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''The only way we could do that was to contract with someone else to provide those lunches.''

The meals shipped to Tanana will be similar to those served in Fairbanks schools, said Fairbanks food service supervisor Lynn Tompkins. Tanana's meals will be prepared along with the Fairbanks district's daily meals, he said, and then will be frozen and shipped 135 miles to Tanana weekly.

The district isn't making money off the venture, Tompkins said. ''It is just helping out, it is not for revenue,'' she said.

Of the 53 school districts in the state, 46 participate in the federal school lunch program, according to Kathleen Wayne, the child nutrition services program coordinator for the state Department of Education and Early Development. Districts are reimbursed for each lunch provided.

''It is a flat rate of reimbursement. It does not cover all the costs (of a lunch program),'' Wayne said. ''It is very clearly not meant to cover all the costs.''

In Tanana, Hodges said she hopes the kitchen closure will be temporary, ''just this one year only until we get back on our feet financially.''

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