School board raises lunch prices 10 cents

Cecil Whig - - & - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— The Ce­cil County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion on Mon­day night voted to raise lunch prices by 10 cents next school year, the third such in­crease since 2013.

That in­crease will bring the cost of lunch to $2.75 for se­condary students and $2.60 for ele­men­tary students, and trans­lates to a $18 yearly cost in­crease for students. Break­fast prices, which are cur­rently the sec­ond low­est in the state, will re­main the same at $1.20 for se­condary students and $1.15 for ele­men­tary students.

The lunch price in­crease comes as the Food and Nu­tri­tion Depart­ment ex­pects to end the year with a deficit. Through April, the depart­ment had a deficit of about $70,000 and, while depart­ment of­fi­cials ex­pect that May rev­enue will help bring that fig­ure down, they still ex­pect to end the year in the red.

The in­crease is also in line with fed­eral guide­lines in­cluded in The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

“Our bud­get is very fluid. It’s dic­tated by whether our students chose to eat with us ev­ery day. Par­tic­i­pa­tion is what drives our big­gest ex­penses,” said Kathy Thomas, CCPS food and nu­tri­tion su­per­vi­sor. “If we re­late our ser­vices to the (ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices) side, we are an elec­tive, not a re­quired class, which means we have to woo our students ev­ery­day into our serv­ing line.”

Thomas is re­tir­ing af­ter 40 years at CCPS and she turned the ma­jor­ity of the pre­sen­ta­tion over to Scott Heck­ert who will take over her po­si­tion start­ing July 1.

In his pre­sen­ta­tion, Heck­ert said the ex­pected deficit is be­cause of food waste, un­ex­pected ex­penses associated with back­fill­ing cafe­te­ria man­ager po­si­tions and a num­ber of un­fore­seen re­pairs to equip­ment. Dur­ing the last year, the depart­ment also saw a 6 per­cent de­crease in break­fast par­tic­i­pa­tion and a slight 1 per­cent drop

ELK­TON

in lunch par­tic­i­pa­tion, he added.

But the depart­ment also had a few high­lights dur­ing the last year too, such as ad­ding a num­ber of new on­line fea­tures, in­clud­ing on­line menus, and the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the sec­ond chance break­fast pro­gram at Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle School, Heck­ert said.

The in­creased food waste and de­crease in break­fast par­tic­i­pa­tion are re­lated and are pri­mar­ily due to students in the Mary­land Meals for Achieve­ment (MMFA) pro­gram. This state pro­gram pro­vides a free break­fast to ev­ery stu­dent in schools with at least 40 per­cent of students qual­i­fy­ing for free or re­duced meals (FARM), Heck­ert said.

But this year, at the re­quest of sev­eral of the par­tic­i­pat­ing schools, food ser­vices in­tro­duced more pro­tein items to the break­fast — a move that wasn’t very pop­u­lar with students, Heck­ert said.

“We had a tremen­dous amount of waste,” he added.

Go­ing forward, the depart­ment hopes to rec­tify this prob­lem by ex­pand­ing the menu cy­cle from two to three weeks and also ad­ding new items to the menu, Heck­ert said.

Be­sides food waste, the depart­ment also went over bud­get on salaries due to five dif­fer­ent cafe­te­ria man­agers hav­ing to take off for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. This re­quired the depart­ment to pro­mote other peo­ple and then back­fill those po­si­tions, Heck­ert said.

On top of the un­ex­pected staff changes, the depart­ment also had to deal with a num­ber of un­planned re­pairs to equip­ment, re­sult­ing in ex­tra costs, Heck­ert said. For next school year, the depart­ment plans to put to­gether a plan to re­pair and re­place equip­ment, some of which is from the 1960s, he added.

But while the depart­ment had many bud­getary chal­lenges this year, it was also able to in­tro­duce a num­ber of new pro­grams, in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing its on­line ser­vices, Heck­ert said. In par­tic- ular, the depart­ment con­tin­ues to see an in­crease in on­line pay­ments and ex­pects to hit nearly $1 mil­lion in on­line pay­ments by the end of the school year, he added.

Sim­i­larly, the depart­ment has also seen an in­crease in par­ents fill­ing out on­line ap­pli­ca­tions for free and re­duced meals, a trend Heck­ert said he hopes will con­tinue.

“An on­line ap­pli­ca­tion can process within 24 hours. A pa­per ap­pli­ca­tion can take up to 10 days,” he said. “So this is a re­ally great con­ve­nience for our par­ents.”

An­other con­ve­nience for par­ents is the in­tro­duc­tion of on­line school menus through NutriSlice this school year, Geoffrey Sudz­ina, as­sis­tant in food and nu­tri­tion, told the board. The pro­gram went live in Fe­bru­ary and al­lows par­ents and students to see monthly school menus as well as look up nu­tri­tion facts for par­tic­u­lar items, rate the food and even see what items might con­tain food students are al­ler­gic too, he added.

Out­side of the new on­line fea­tures, the depart­ment has also had suc­cess with a new pro­gram called Sec­ond Chance Break­fast. Im­ple­mented at Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle last Jan­uary, the pro­gram al­lows students to take a break be­tween first and sec­ond pe­riod to eat break­fast, Sudz­ina said.

Typ­i­cally, students’ only chance for break­fast is be­fore the school day be­gins and ad­ding the sec­ond op­tion has re­sulted in a big jump in break­fast par­tic­i­pa­tion at RSMS, Sudz­ina said. For ex­am­ple, in Septem­ber 2014, only 34 RSMS students ate break­fast but af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Sec­ond Chance break­fast, the num­ber jumped to 115 in Septem­ber 2015 and that up­ward trend has con­tin­ued, he added.

“We are now ap­proach­ing al­most 200 students eat­ing break­fast ev­ery day at Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle,” Sudz­ina said. “Our break­fast par­tic­i­pa­tion at Ris­ing Sun Mid­dle is now al­most equal to our lunch par­tic­i­pa­tion.”

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