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O.C. school district food service starts year in red - Ocean City Sentinel: News

O.C. school district food service starts year in red

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 1:51 pm

OCEAN CITY – It was the good, the bad and the hungry when the Ocean City Board of Education got its first look at the financial status of the food service program this year.

With a goal set to “gain momentum over prior years,” the lunch program saw a financial loss in September, but it was a smaller loss than September 2012.

September’s loss is $35,074. That is a sizable improvement over last September, but still a loss the district will have to work to overcome in the coming months.

Last year, the school district started the year in a food service financial hole $61,000 deep after just the first month. There were unique challenges and expenses last year, including the change to the national nutritional guidelines for lunch, which meant more grains and veggies, more nutritional food overall and smaller portion sizes. At Ocean City High School, it was also the beginning of “Community Lunch,” where the entire student body shares one lunch period.

There were also one-time purchases to establish the community lunch period, most of which fell into September 2012’s financial numbers.

There were no such extraordinary purchases noted for this year, to account for the loss.

This year has the same number of serving days as last September, at 15 days. Across all categories, student participation increased. Breakfast meals served per day were 33 this year, well above the 13 of last September’s average. “Complete lunches” served, for which the district gets a small federal reimbursement, averaged 532 per day, well above last year’s 467. “Equivalent meals,” or those items bought a la carte, which do not meet the standards of the reimbursable meals increased to averaging 1,220 per day, over last September’s 1,157.

Those equivalent meals, showing as “cash sales” in the financial report presented to the board, increased $5,826 over last year’s numbers. Expenses decreased by about $20,000, with decreases in food costs ($5,767), labor costs ($6,173) and direct costs ($8,408). Management fees for Aramark, the food service company employed by the district, increased $56 for the month.

The end result is still a loss.

Last year, when presenting the September 2012 loss of $61,126, the-business administrator Tom Grossi said about $26,000 was the actual loss, after deducting expenses related to the change to community lunch at the high school, cafeteria repainting and design at the intermediate school and other one-time costs.

September 2013’s loss is $35,074.

A school district’s school lunch program is considered an Enterprise account, meaning it must break even. Any profits from the program must be put back into the program. Any financial losses from the program must be covered, through transfer of funds, by the school district’s operating budget.

In the 1990s, Ocean City’s school lunch program lost more than $1 million dollars. A decade of change followed, which included moving from an outside food service provider to a district-employed manager. That manager retired in 2011 and as of July 2012 the school district retained the services of an outside company, Aramark.

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