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"It was a good outcome:" D60 food workers on board with outsourcing of food services

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Posted at 6:06 PM, May 24, 2021

PUEBLO — Big changes are headed to Pueblo School District 60 after the school board approved a proposal to outsource food services.

The decision initially upset some food service workers who believed the transition would force pay cuts, loss of benefits, or their jobs.

"It was a struggle. The fear of losing your job, the fear alone was pretty emotional, but it was a good outcome," said Debbie Nash, Union member and Cafeteria leader at Highland Park Elementary School.

There's been a lot of uncertainty for food-service workers the last few months, but the recent decision relieving some of their worries.

"It's sad they did choose to outsource us but I'm glad that they found something that, we get to keep our benefits and salaries. I'm appreciative and I hope others are too," said Nash.

With the decision, workers also will be able to stay at their school and sustain the union.

"I think it's a big relief to know we still have our union to make sure all of our employees are treated fairly," said Nash.

The district chose to partner with SFE also known as Southwest Food Service Excellence. The company specializes in fresh from scratch cuisine for students in K-12 grades.

"We have a multitude of ways that we are approaching District 60 specifically. One of the things that SFE prides itself on is really looking at what's important to the local school district and customizing a program that works for the community and works for the population," said Sara Murphy, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Southwest Food Service Excellence.

She says they've already been meeting with the district to develop a program that best fits their students and community.

"To talk about what's working in the cafe right now, what are some student favorites. We'll also poll students, parents, and community members as well. So as we're developing the menus to kick off the school year, we'll have all of that feedback and can incorporate things like Pueblo Chilies. Looking at how we can incorporate those local flavors," said Murphy.

The company will also be providing more dining options within high schools for older students.

"Convenient store, some coffee store options we presented to them as well. What that allows us to do is bring retail food experiences to students in school. Then offer multiple points of service and alleviate the main serving line in the cafeteria which can get pretty heavy," said Murphy.

She says it was important to keep current food service workers with the transition.

"We fully intend for those folks to stay on board with us. We plan to transition them all, maintain the staffing levels that are there, maintain them at their rate of pay, and keep them in their favorite location," said Murphy. "That frontline team is critical to the plot. They know those students, the students know them, they know what they like, they know what they don't like."

Food-service workers looking forward to change, but most importantly doing what they love most.

"We gotta have jobs, and we're going to move forward. It's all for our kids," said Nash.