The Hastings school district is looking to hire a private company to serve school meals just six weeks after settling a strike with the district's food service workers.

"The district learned ... over the course of the recent strike, that it may be able to realize cost savings and greater efficiencies by exploring potential outsourcing or alternative structures for how it handles food service," the district said in a news release.

The school board directed district administrators on April 12 to seek proposals from food service companies, the release said.

District officials said they met with representatives from the food service workers' union — SEIU Local 284 — on April 20 to tell them about plans to explore privatization, something they also mentioned to workers during the strike.

"We're concerned," said Hal Goetz, a contract organizer with SEIU Local 284. "The district seems to be moving very fast with this."

Goetz said district officials haven't said how many employees they're looking to outsource. The union wants to bargain — or discuss the matter further — with the district.

In late March, about 30 Hastings food service workers reached a contract with the district after a seven-week strike. Workers from the south metro district, which has 4,200 students, had said their wages weren't keeping pace with inflation.

The new one-year contract included wage increases, "step movement for all eligible members" and one-time payments of $800. The contract also maintained the district's contribution to health insurance, a union email said.

Laurie Pottoff,a union steward, said she and the food service workers "love our jobs." But with the news of possible privatization, "We don't know if we have jobs to come back to. That's the scary part."

Pottoff said she was asked to come to the district office April 14, where she was told of the district's plans to "explore privatization."

She learned the district was actively seeking food service management companies' services when she saw an online ad in the newspaper, she said. That ad said proposals must be submitted by noon May 18.

Pottoff said food service workers live in the district and their children and grandchildren attend Hastings schools. Some have helped serve school meals for decades, she said.

The district news release said "no final decisions have been made," and added that many districts use an outside company for food service.

Hastings Superintendent Bob McDowell said the district "had no additional comment at this time."