At its annual Summer Retreat July 27-29, 2004, Sheila Middleton, Vice President of Operations for Opaa! Food Management, announced Janie Fritter, Opaa!'s Regional Director of Operations for southwest Missouri as the recipient of the 2003-04 Regional Director of the Year award. Company officials selected Janie as Regional Director of the Year from among Opaa!'s Regional Directors of Operation across the state of Missouri. In presenting the award, Middleton described Janie as, "someone that can aways be counted on, someone that is steady and calm, someone who gives her all to her region. Janie has built a great team in her region and her directors have a special bondâ€¦they are very connected." In commenting on Janie's award, Opaa! Food Management Executive Vice President, Robert Sanders, said "it has been a pleasure to watch Janie grow up in the Opaa! family. She is respected by all within the company for her imaginative ideas and a special ability to work with people to successfully implement her ideas."
Janie has been an Opaa! employee since August of 1996 and previously served as Opaa!'s Director of Nutrition Services at the Nevada R-5 School District before being promoted to her current position as Regional Director. Janie has served as a Regional Director for the past seven years. Janie and son Kyle, live in Nevada. In her spare time, Janie says that she enjoys bowling, pool and golf.
As Regional Director of Operations, Janie supervises eight school districts and 30 preparation sites in her region. Janie said, "I was quite surprised at receiving this award, but working in my favor is a great team of directors. They are a special group of people that care about each other and it shows in the way they, in return, take care of the students and staff in the school districts they serve."
Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 27th year of operation. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 47 Missouri school districts.
At it's annual Summer Retreat July 27-29, 2004, Kevin Short, President of Opaa! Food Management announced Robert Sanders, Opaa!'s Executive Vice President as the recipient of the third annual "Whatever It Takes Award". In making the announcement, Short stated, "This award was created to recognize the extraordinary efforts of an individual who embodies the "vision" of Opaa! It is given to a person who takes ownership of their position and who goes the extra mile for their clients, co-workers, vendors and the public in general. The person chosen for this award truly finds self-fulfillment in creatively carrying out the duties of their job. They see and act upon opportunities to benefit the company, themselves and everyone around them."
Company officials selected Sanders as the award recipient from over 900 Opaa! employees across the state of Missouri. Robert began working for Opaa! Food Management in 1988 as it's Executive Vice President. Prior to that time, Robert had been a career educator in the Excelsior Springs School District having served as a teacher, coach, principal and assistant superintendent.
In presenting the award, Short discussed the challenge the company faced during the year of having to rebid nearly two-thirds of Opaa!'s core business. Short said, "Robert's initial decision to choose to view this challenge as an opportunity positively motivated the rest of the staff. His efforts to organize the schedule of multiple parties, inside and outside of Opaa!, made this a manageable project. But most importantly, his commitment of time to personally visit with client liaisons and Opaa! staff during the pre-proposal, pre-bid conference, bid dates and board of education meetings carried the day. He clearly demonstrated the character and integrity worthy of Opaa!'s most distinguished 'Whatever It Takes' award."
Robert and his wife Neta have lived in Excelsior Springs since 1969. They have two children, Leslie Leonhard of Excelsior Springs and Jennifer Sanders of Chicago, Illinois, and one grandson, Jacob Leonhard. Robert graduated from Missouri Valley College with a bachelor's degree in Secondary Education and holds graduate degrees in Educational Administration from Central Missouri State University. Robert is a member of the Missouri Association of School Business Officials and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the past 19 years. When not attending to his Opaa! responsibilities, Robert says that he enjoys golfing, reading and playing with his grandson.
After the surprise announcement, Robert said, "Knowing the characteristics that are embodied in the essence of this award, I am both humbled and honored to receive it this year. I owe a great deal of thanks to those who nominated me and would like to acknowledge the many members of the Opaa! family who make what we do a team effort everyday."
For several years, Opaa! was privileged to have the opportunity to work with a motivational speaker and coach, Carol Rogers-Sealy. "Whatever It Takes" was the philosophy of life that Carol Rogers-Sealy lived by and because of her impact on Opaa! Food Management, it was felt that is was an appropriate name for this award. Opaa! Food Management, Inc., is based in Chesterfield, Missouri, and is entering its 27th year of service. Opaa! currently operates the nutrition programs for 47 Missouri school districts.
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|Robert E. Sanders
Executive Vice President
Opaa! Food Management, Inc.
Globe Staff Writer
The Joplin Globe
McDonald County joins ranks of schools using food-service vendors
PINEVILLE, Mo. â€” Chase Hurley says he looks forward to his school lunches a little more these days.
The Anderson Elementary School fifth-grader says the school food is hotter and it tastes better since the school district handed its food service over to Opaa! Food Management Inc. earlier this month.
â€œThey have different things we can eat, and the meals are hotter,â€ Chase said. â€œIt used to be that they would be cold when we got them.â€
Chaseâ€™s mother, Brandi Hurley, said her children are actually excited about lunch.
â€œThey really like the new choices,â€ she said.
Dick Davis, assistant school superintendent, said that was the attitude he was hoping to see in students when he recommended that the district use the company.
But even more critical to the school district is a promise from the food-management service that it can put a stop to a budget deficit the district has seen the past three years in cafeteria operations.
The St. Louis company, which specializes in operating school-lunch programs, took over operation of the seven school cafeterias in the McDonald County district on April 5. The company absorbed the school districtâ€™s food-service staff, and took over payroll and benefits for that staff.
Davis said the district was losing money trying to feed its students. The district spent $1,029,975 in 2002-01, exceeding its $989,758 budget by $40,217. In 2001-02, the district spent $1,131,320, exceeding its $1,089,253 budget by $42,067. In 2002-03, the district spent $1,254,212, going over the $1,114,709 budget by $139,503.
Davis said the rising cost of food and an increasing student population were contributors to last yearâ€™s loss.
â€œWe werenâ€™t keeping as good a track of the costs of food as we should have been,â€ Davis said. â€œAny time there is a deficit in food service, that takes money away from instruction, and thatâ€™s money we canâ€™t spare. In food service, weâ€™re in the business to break even.â€
The district previously used a food-purchasing service, although the district still ran the food program. Davis said the district found that it was buying more and more packaged foods, which cost more money.
For example, McDonald County was buying prepackaged cookies and treats instead of making them in the districtâ€™s kitchens.
Davis said 1,997 McDonald County students are in the free or reduced-price lunch program, or about 56 percent of the districtâ€™s total enrollment of 3,554.
He said that at the elementary and junior high level, breakfast costs 75 cents and lunch is $1. At the high school, breakfast costs $1 and lunch costs $1.25. Those costs didnâ€™t change when Opaa! took over the food-service program.
The Opaa! Web site says the company provides food services in 46 school districts across Missouri, and it works only in Missouri.
Vice President Robert Sanders said the company charges districts a fixed cost for each tray of food a student buys.
The school districts collect the money from the students, and the company bills the districts each month.
â€œThe cost per tray is different in each district,â€ Sanders said. â€œWeâ€™ve got 46 different accounts, and we probably charge 46 different rates. Probably 95 percent of schools come to us about food service because of financial reasons, like McDonald County did.
â€œWithin that other 5 percent, some of them may come to us because a food-service director resigns or retires, and they are looking for someone to take over the service. Some of them come to use purely because they are looking to serve their students better.â€
In Southwest Missouri, Opaa! operates the food services in the Aurora, Seneca, Lamar, Nevada and El Dorado Springs school districts, in addition to McDonald County.
Seneca Superintendent Bobby Martin said his district is happy with Opaa!â€™s service, and he expects more districts to contract out food service and other parts of their operations, such as transportation and custodial services.
â€œYou have to take into account that those people no longer work for the school district anymore,â€ Martin said. â€œThey are no longer school employees, so the school is no longer responsible for workersâ€™ compensation, health insurance and other costs that have been rising dramatically in the past few years.â€
Joplin R-8 Superintendent Jim Simpson said his district has a professional food-service manager, Rick Kenkel, who â€œwas the man who took us from the red to the black.â€
Simpson said districts that run deficits in their food-service programs are the ones that turn to companies such as Opaa!.
â€œUsually in smaller districts, the food-service manager is a long-term cook, but larger districts can hire a professional food-service manager,â€ Simpson said. â€œIt has to do with being very much in tune with your cash revenue and food costs, and itâ€™s a very complex job.â€
Jasper Superintendent Jeff Kyle said his district checked into a food-service company a couple of years back, but was told that the district and the food program were too small and that the money saved would not be worth the cost.
Kyle said Jasperâ€™s food-service program is run in the districtâ€™s central office by a head cook, and it comes close to breaking even annually.
â€œOn average, we come to within a few thousand dollars of breaking even,â€ Kyle said. â€œOf course, we have only a fraction of the student population they have in McDonald County, and we only have one kitchen and cafeteria compared to the multiple sites they have.â€
Sanders said the company served 12 million meals last year, and that buying power allows the company to negotiate lower prices from its suppliers. The company also makes use of U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities, such as flour, cheese and other foods provided for free to the school districts by the federal government, to bake more foods from scratch. The district receives a credit from Opaa! for the value of those commodities.
Sanders said a school districtâ€™s cooks are absorbed into the company, meaning they become employees of Opaa! instead of employees of the district.
He said company officials spent several weeks in McDonald County before and after Opaa! took over the food service.
â€œWith change you have anxiety, but we grandfathered in all of McDonald Countyâ€™s cooking staff and gave them the training to make the transition as seamless as possible,â€ he said.
Dena Pugh, head cook at McDonald County High School, said the cooks were skeptical about the plan at first. She said the companyâ€™s insistence on foods made on site meant a big increase in the workload of the cooks.
â€œYou hate to change when youâ€™ve been doing something for a long time,â€ Pugh said. â€œWe met a few cooks from some of the other school districts that use Opaa!, and they said once you get used to it, you will love it.â€
|A warm welcome to the students and staff of the McDonald County R-I and the Mountain View-Birch Tree R-III School Districts.
Our first day of service at McDonald County was April 5th. With seven schools and an enrollment of nearly 3600 students, it is one of our largest school districts. McDonald County is the far most southwestern county in Missouri.
Dee Wood is our new Director of Nutrition Services. Welcome aboard, Dee and to all of the McDonald County foodservice employees. Robin Paulson is their Regional Director. She along with RDO Janie Fritter have been assisting with the new opening.
On Tuesday, February 25, 2004, Mountain View-Birch Tree became another new member of the Opaa! family. Their first day is April 13th. Sabrina Reese is our new Director of Nutrition Services with Steve Strup as the Regional Director. Sabrina, Steve and RDO Debbie Linke have been preparing for the opening.
Mountain View-Birch Tree is located about 90 miles east of Springfield and is a neighbor of one of our current family members, the Winona R-III School District. Mountain View-Birch Tree has an enrollment of about 1300 students and three schools-two elementary schools and a middle/high school.
We welcome both school districts to the Opaa! Food Management Family!
Congratulations to both Linda Jones, Opaa!'s Director of Development, and Stan Ingber, Opaa!'s Director of Purchasing for receiving AgriMissouri Excellence Awards at the State of Missouri Department of Agriculture's 38th annual Missouri Governor's Conference November 23-25, in Osage Beach, MO.
The theme, "Charting a Course for Missouri Agriculture," was modeled after the Lewis and Clark's historical Westward expedition which opened up new frontiers to the world's people. On Sunday, November 23rd, "A Taste of AgriMissouri," reception was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Tan-Tan-A resort, to honor the AgriMissouri Excellence Award recipients.
Peter Hofherr, the Director of Agriculture presented the awards. The AgriMissouri Excellence Award program, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, honors organizations and individuals who have done an outstanding job in working on sourcing and promoting Missouri agriculture products. This is the first year of the program.
Over the last year, a Missouri school foodservice director task force, made up of school foodservice directors and representatives from around the state, met on March 5, 2003 to identify Missouri agriculture food products that could be sourced and promoted onto the school lunch menus. The Missouri Department of Agriculture is working in concert with school districts to determine local and national foodservice distributors who are willing to welcome Missouri agriculture food products into their distribution systems.
Through his efforts, Stan Ingber, a task force member, arranged for foodservice distributors U.S. Foodservice and Kohl Wholesale to open their doors to source Missouri apples for the fall season. Missouri produces nearly 40,000,000 pounds of apples a year, offering varieties such as the Jonathan, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Galas, and Romes. The season for Missouri apple harvest is from late August through late November.
Linda Jones, Director of Development for Opaa! Food Management, helped celebrate Missouri Products Month by teaming up with the Missouri Department of Agriculture to promote the importance of Missouri agriculture. The pilot program embraced the participation of teachers, principals, and students. A cafeteria decorating contest was made available to all of the school districts under the management of Opaa! Food Management. First Lady Hauser Holden visited several cafeterias that promoted Missouri agriculture.
"Teaching our children about agriculture through fun events like this brings spirit among the school cafeterias. The walls of the cafeterias were beautifully decorated with facts, essays, and poems about Missouri agriculture." states Linda Jones.
A similar cafeteria decorating contest is slated for February 2004 and is being offered to all school districts throughout Missouri. Foodservice distributors throughout the state are encouraged to participate by inventorying Missouri agricultural food products and making them available to the schools throughout Missouri.