By CASEY CROUCHER
Recorder News Staff
After losing their cafeteria manager earlier this summer, St. Mary's Institute will partner with the Greater Amsterdam School District's food service provider in October.
"SMI reached out to us and wondered if we were interested in sharing our program," GASD Superintendent Thomas Perillo said. "We did some leg work and it looks like our goal is to try and make that happen and start by Oct. 1."
When SMI approached the school district earlier this month requesting shared services, GASD officials were worried about the legality and whether the district would lose money from the deal.
"Naturally, we expected the school district to have questions, but this is something that's a common practice with many Catholic schools," SMI principal Giovanni Virgiglio Jr. said. "There are federal regulations that govern public schools to provide lunch programs to non-public schools -- it's part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Those regulations were signed as part of a national program."
He said he talked to the state's Office of Child Nutrition Management, the organization that oversees all school lunch programs, and they suggested SMI team up with GASD for school meals.
The food service provider, Sodexo, is currently the provider for GASD. Virgiglio said SMI will "umbrella" under Sodexo starting in October.
"We never anticipated the program would be ready by the start of the school year, so the current lunch program we have now will still be in place," he said. "We will be operating the same."
Despite the loss of the cafeteria manager, Virgiglio said SMI will have the same cafeteria employees to start the school year.
"By partnering with a larger food system provider we'll be able to bring our students greater variety and options for their school lunches," he said. "It has become difficult in light of these new regulations to be able to continue our current program."
This won't be the first time SMI and GASD share services. Virgiglio said the school district provides SMI with a nurse and a teacher for academic intervention services, as well as transportation for some students.
"It is not a burden to the school district," Perillo said. "It's a partnership and it's a good food service and we always look forward to a partnership with area agencies and SMI is one. I believe Sodexo will probably help in a number of ways, one being a greater variety of items to choose from."
He said he's looking forward to another new partnership with SMI.
"SMI is a great institution and they are right here in the community," he said. "I think the food service provider, Sodexo, does provide a good variety for the children; I know our students like it a lot and I think SMI will too."
Perillo said SMI and the GASD have to do some paperwork with the state's Education Department to register as the children's nutrition agent before the transition can occur.