Food delivery costs impact Re-2 budget |

Food delivery costs impact Re-2 budget

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. Record-high gas prices are choking some food distributors out of the Western Slope market and leaving some hungry budgets in school districts from Cortez to Steamboat, including Garfield School District Re-2.Maradee DeFiore, account executive for Nobel/Sysco Distributing Co. in Denver, said that distributing to the rural districts is no longer cost-effective for the companies, and distributors are losing money due to more stops and smaller product orders. DeFiore said that each delivery costs Nobel/Sysco about $150 dollars.”With the fuel costs, it may be closer to $200 now,” she said. “The different stops are what’s costing us so much.”One thing that helps the Re-2 district is that it has a food warehouse where staff can store food for the entire district and distribute it to the individual schools from there. The warehouse allows for more product to be dropped at one time. That is one thing that Nobel would like to see more of from districts in the future.”That has been my saving grace,” said Sue Beecraft, director of nutrition services for Re-2. “At least we’re a one-stop district. The districts without a storage warehouse are in a bigger bind than I am.”Roaring Fork School District Re-1 food service director Lori Burgess agrees with Beecraft because she has seven separate deliveries. Burgess said that rising freight costs are being passed to the district. For individual drops of less than $1000, she is charged additional fees as well.”With what they tack on for the case drops, by the time those are added on with the rising food costs, it’s a good chunk of change,” Burgess said.But even with the warehouse, Re-2 is still seeing an increase in the price of food along with the rising freight costs. Beecraft said that rising freight costs have driven the district’s annual food budget from $539,000 in 2005-06 to $638,000 for the next school year, an increase of $99,000 in two years.The distributors can raise their costs and pass them on to the restaurants and other businesses, which can pass the costs on to the consumers. But the school districts can’t pass the buck and are restrained by a budget.Beecraft said that in Re-2’s demographics almost 50 percent of families are low income, which qualifies their students for free or reduced lunches at a cost of approximately $3 per lunch to the school. The state’s reimbursement on a reduced lunch program is only $2.40, so the district loses about $.60 per lunch. If the cost of food rises, so do the expenses for the school, and the money will have to come from somewhere else, like the district’s general fund.According to Beecraft, four main companies distribute to the school districts on the western slope, including Shamrock Foods, U.S. Foods, Andrews Food Services and Nobel/Sysco, all based along the front range. In the past, Re-2 has worked with all of them from time to time, but mainly used Nobel/Sysco or U.S. Foods for the majority of the food products served in the schools for the past 17 years, Beecraft said. But this year the two distributors didn’t even compete for the district’s contract because of the high freight costs.Andrews currently holds the three-year contract with the Colorado Department of Education to provide the districts on the western slope with the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) commodities like beef, pork and poultry. But districts will look elsewhere, especially to local smaller distributors, for other goods like fruits and vegetables to get a better price, Burgess said.DeFiore said that Nobel/Sysco would like to see a prime vendor contract that would allow a single vendor to supply the districts with all the grocery needs. That way, it would be more cost-effective for everyone involved.”If the entire bid could go to one vendor, including the USDA commodities, then it would make it easy and beneficial for everybody,” DeFiore said.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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