"School districts have realized we're in a business where we need to operate like a business," says Denise Christensen, Nutrition Manager for the Richland School District.
Richland's business model is smart, especially when you consider how much more food is costing these days. It doesn't matter if it's pizza, pears, or piles of bread. This year, national food prices are spiking five-percent.
When you're in charge of thousands of mouths to feed, that money doesn't come easily. It's why the Richland School District took matters into its own hands by contracting with an outside company to supply food.
"We're always looking how we can save money," Christensen says.
This change has meant Richland doesn't have to worry whenever a drought drives up crop prices. Take apples for example. When there's something wrong with the apple crop, it doesn't matter to Richland schools. All they will do is to substitute oranges for apples.
The savings don't end there. By privatizing food service, contract terms were locked in long before food costs starting going up. As a result, the district pays the same regardless of the actual price. It's managed to save $250,000 each school year since.
The extra money is used toward buying textbooks and increased school security.
Besides Richland, school districts in Kennewick and Burbank also contract food services.
Pasco still handles food services on its own.