System losing money in lunch business - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

System losing money in lunch business

July 22, 2005

Albany- The Dougherty County School System pays people to prepare hot lunches for students.

"That's far more balanced than eating candy or drinking a soft drink," said Superintendent Sally Whatley.

But cafeteria staff may have been working too many hours for the number of mouths they were feeding. That's part of the reason school officials say they lost more than $900,000 in the nutrition program this year. Also, the number of students eating, dropped. Especially for breakfast.

"I believe some parents believe they still have to pay for breakfast," said Finance Director Robert Lloyd. "Breakfast is still free and will be free all next year."

The system began charging for lunches again last February after they had financial problems with a federal program that provided free lunches for all students.

The food deficit is now more than $3.3 million, but administrators told board members Friday that the changes are in place to fix the problem and decrease the deficit. One of the changes to the food program is to avoid any more problems with number crunching.

"Our system level accountants are overseeing the accountant at the child nutrition level," Whatley said.

They've also reduced staff hours and changed the way inventory is handled. To increase the number of students who eat, the system is working on a promotional plan and will do a survey to find out what kids want.

"There are certain foods that one school might enjoy more than the other and we'd like to give some ownership to the students for the meal programs."

So whatever the price students are paying, they like what they're getting in return.

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