Save the Rams Cave!
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Over the past few years, the school store at Clarkstown North, the Rams Cave, has grown trememendously. Initially housed in a closet, the Rams Cave has gone from selling school supplies and water bottles to a place where students can purchase healthy salads, wraps, drinks, snacks and bagels.
The Rams Cave is fully run by volunteer parents, and all the proceeds go directly back to Clarkstown North. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of parents who run the entire operation, the North PTSA has been able to benefit the entire North community with things such as: awarding $7,500/year in student scholarships, purchasing 20 picnic tables for the area between the main and the annex, purchasing a golf cart for the security guards, refurbishing the guidance office where college admissions officers meet with students, funding diversity training for staff and creating a "safe spaces" workshop for students, purchasing and installing signs around Clarkstown North, providing teachers with student impact grants for their classrooms, curricula or other educational "extras"' for which there is no funding, replacing the curtains in the auditorium, and most recently, authorizing the purchase of a new digital sign at the entrance to Clarkstown North High School (to replace the old, broken sign that currently exists). This is only a small fraction of what the PTSA has accomplished because of the Rams Cave.
While the financial benefits of the Rams Cave are indisputable, more important is the sense of pride and spirit the Ram's Cave has created for the students at North. The Rams Cave has created a unique environment where parents, students and staff engage with each together to support their school. It has also helped promote safety for students who do not want to eat at the cafeteria and would otherwise go off campus for lunch. Approximately 500 students visit the Rams Cave daily, and for many of the students, grabbing a wrap or bagel is their only chance to eat.
This past October we were notified by the head of Food Services that we had to comply with federal food guidelines. Through the extensive time and hard work of 2 of our volunteers, we made the necessary changes to what we served and complied with the guidelines. Unfortunately that was not enough. We then provided detailed nutritional breakdowns of everything served in the Rams Cave, as required by the federal guidelines. This too was not enough. After a meeting with the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent and the head of Food Services, we were told we must provide the recipes for all the food served. Given that this information is the proprietary property of our vendors, we refused. We were, however, willing to provide the detailed recipes for inspection to any state or federal agency upon request. That was not sufficient. Right now we are at a standstill with the district - they won't let us continue to serve food without the recipes and pursuant to our vendors we can't provide that information. It is our fear that the district is forcing us to close the Rams Cave. We have been told that non-compliance will result in the loss of federal funding in the amount of $500,000. The PTSA does not believe that this is the real reason that we are under attack by the district. While the Superintendent has told us that we must provide the recipes to avoid risking the loss of federal funding, we respectfully disagree, and have voiced our objections.
We all want the same thing - for the kids to have healthy food options during their school day. We are frustrated by how this situation has unfolded. The Rams Cave has been in operation for several years without the hardcore scrutiny we've faced most recently. We understand the federal food guidelines and compliance. We also understand that what the law says is that all nutritional information must be available for an audit, all of which has been provided. And in the event of any negative findings, we also know that the district has 30 days to remedy the problem. If there is a second violation or finding, there is a fine, the full funding is not pulled unless there is a "repeated, egregious, and blatant disregard." We don't see that as a very likely scenario.
We have been fighting since October and now we need your help. Please make your voices heard by signing this petition. We want the Rams Cave to continue operation with its current offerings, without being required to hand over proprietary recipes.
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