ELYRIA — Monday’s power outage at Elyria High School made the preparation of meals for students throughout the district impossible because all food service functions are centralized at the high school.
The decision to centralize food services at Elyria Schools was made years ago when the new Elyria High School was under construction. When the high school was completed in 2012, the new kitchen began providing all of the district’s meals. Monday’s power outage at the school was the first time the process was interrupted.
Electricians were at Elyria High all day Monday and finally, by 7 p.m., school officials were able to say power had been restored and school would be held today. The cause of the outage is undetermined at this time.
Elyria Schools has a more then 70-percent participation rate in the free and reduced lunch program, and it provides breakfast to the elementary schools as a part of its food service program. Each day, thousands of meals are prepared, packaged and shipped to buildings across the district.
Without electricity, food service workers were unable to carry out those duties, district spokeswoman Amy Higgins said.
“Aside from this isolated problem, having a centralized kitchen has worked out very well for the district,” Higgins said. “The kitchen facilities are state-of-the-art and it is really the best solution for feeding the district.”
The decision to close school undoubtedly caught parents off guard, but changing to bagged lunches or on-site meal preparation for the schools not affected by the power failure was not an option. The schools do not have a food inventory.
“Coming up with 8,000 bagged meals at the drop of a hat cannot be pulled off, not with all the dietary restrictions to students we face every day as well as the restrictions to what the federal government expects from school lunches,” Higgins said.
Elyria is not the only district to centralize food services across the region. Lorain Schools also consolidated its food program.
Jeff Hawks, executive director of operations for Lorain Schools, said all breakfast and lunch meals are prepared at Lorain High School.
Lorain School uses Aramark Education as its food service provider. Sodexo is the food service provider for Elyria Schools.