Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BPS, Just Eat It

Is incompetence better, worse or the same as corruption...at least for school kids' food? The Councilor Connolly crusade against really old food the BPS has been serving may help us figure out that one.

Yesterday, the person in charge of BPS meals got a reassignment. Helen Mont-Ferguson, director of food and nutrition, stepped aside as the department searches for her replacement. Understandably though, the noise will continue. At-Large Councilor John Connolly will lead the first of two public hearings on the issue today at 11 a.m. in Council chambers. This will be information gathering and fact finding on how the food and inventory are managed. Then this Thursday at 6 p.m. in Dudley Square's Hibernian Hall, public testimony and questions, centered on parents and students, will happen.

Last evening at District 6 Council Councilor Matt O'Malley's WR town meeting, Connolly spoke for a few minutes, mostly on the expired breakfast and lunch foods. He did not note the subtleties of use-by, expiration and other variations on food dates. Not only is he head of the Council's education committee, he has BPS kids himself.

In fact, with the growing number of young Turks on Council, many have or recently had school-age children. This is an emotional issue as well as an intellectual and policy one for them as for other parents.

As he noted there, other related issues also affect a city squeezed by finances. For example, he found that we have been paying high storage rates in commercial freezers. Much of this is for the expired foods he contends we should not be serving, much less storing as it further ages.

I can't be around for his Thursday evening meeting and he was rushing away after the meeting. He did greet a friend and me on the way out, pausing the pat her shoulder for luck at her suggestion, as she is the mother of nine and even though he has a new one, he wouldn't mind another. However, I didn't get a chance to raise another question, one I'll have to send him.

Perhaps I spent too much time in places like New Jersey, South Carolina and New York City. When I hear of such scandals, I think of Cicero's frequent public question, "Cui bono?" — who benefits?

Of course, it's possible that the school-food process has been so sloppy that no one noticed. I see that they are claiming individual packages are often not marked with any dates, that they have to go back to the pallets or records to see when comestibles arrived. Yet, drawing on what I know from a previous professional life on a materials-handling magazine, I find it hard to believe that the industry that pioneered bar codes, computerized inventory tracking, and FIFO product management bypassed the BPS over the past 50 years.

Rather, without a single shred of proof or whisper of allegation to my ears, I wonder who would stand to profit from out-of-date food in the BPS system. Much of the food comes from the federal government I hear, but who handles it, who makes money from the shipping, who controls who gets the freshest foods or the oldest? Is there money to be made by providing food that should be tossed and splitting the profit?

Maybe I'm just cynical, but this just smells, at least figuratively.

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1 comment:

Uncle said...

Arr, the kids just need to toughen up! Why back in me time, they called the barrels that held salt beef at sea "harness casks." Arr, we called the meat "salt horse" and twas as green as yer lawn from mould. But we was glad to get it.

Just proves that some provisioning hasn't moved too far past the 18th century, regarding both expiry dates and ethics.

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