Now that two schools have rejoined the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, the Baldwinsville Central School District has come back into the black in terms of meal revenue. Food Service Director Brian Wright updated the Baldwinsville Board of Education on the district’s meal program at the June 4 BOE meeting.
With its return to the lunch and breakfast programs, Baker High School has contributed $115,000 in federal reimbursements to the district’s meal revenue. Durgee Junior High School also has joined the SBP, bringing in another $5,000.
“The combination of those two schools having a couple programs has really helped our participation. Our reimbursable meal count is up significantly, so we’re actually taking in revenue from everything we’re doing,” Wright said.
The district’s food service program is on track to just about break even. Wright said six of the district’s eight schools have seen an increase in revenue. According to estimates for June 30, 2018, B’ville’s meal expenditures total $1,555,153 and revenue is $1,562,614, netting the school $7,461. The program ended last school year with a $65,445 deficit.
Baker’s re-entry to the NSLP comes less than four years after the district opted out of the program in November 2014. School lunch sales dipped and students tossed food into the trash when the program guidelines left kids with lackluster menu options. Unfortunately, the Baker cafeteria’s efforts to go without federal reimbursements were costly.
“Our three-year experiment was a bit of a failure,” Wright said.
While participation in lunch is still lagging, breakfast participation is up 30 percent thanks to the School Breakfast Program and other measures the district has taken.
Wright said the food service program has cut costs with “creative scheduling,” shifting staff to avoid new labor expenses. An intern from Syracuse University surveyed students about their breakfast preferences. Three cafeterias — Durgee, Palmer Elementary School and Elden Elementary School — began serving new items such as smoothies. Wright said these offerings will expand to the rest of the district next year.
There are more changes on the horizon for the food service program. For the 2018-19 school year, students at Durgee and Ray Middle School will have more time for breakfast.
“We anticipate those numbers to go up for next year, which is pretty awesome,” Wright said. “A lot of times, kids are pressed for time in the morning.”
Wright said he is working with the Central New York Regional Information Center through BOCES to upgrade the inventory and point-of-sale software. The new technology should be up and running by early 2019. Also, the renovation of the Baker kitchen is expected to begin in July 2019.
BOE Member Victor Jenkins asked if the district turns away students who cannot pay for lunch or breakfast.
“We try not to,” Wright said, adding that the district is working with the New York State Education Department to cover those students. “That will probably cause an increase in our negative balances at the end of the year,” he said.
Jenkins said he had spoken with those in charge of the Bee Full food pantry and was told there has been a “major outpouring” of donations.
Wright added that about half a dozen people have made “very generous donations” toward lunch balances.
“There’s enough community resources and support that we shouldn’t ever have to turn kids away,” Jenkins said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.
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