An eye on the basics and a menu tweak have helped put the school meal program at Salem (MA) Schools into the black from a deficit in just one year, reports the Salem News. The successful turnaround also helps ensure that the program remains self-operated.
Salem ran up a $450,000 deficit over the previous five years, leading the superintendent to consider outsourcing. However, a team of cafeteria workers and parents convinced the administrators to hold off and give them a chance to turn the program around. Their efforts resulted in a surplus of as much as $80,000 this past year, which was the stated goal.
They managed it by increasing participation, in part by a concerted effort to get parents to return free/reduced qualification applications, as well as by automating POS and procurement to manage costs, track inventory and document sales better. Previously, these functions were done by hand, leading to waste and inefficiency. The menu was also revamped to add more scratch-cooked meals and to better take advantage of federal commodities.
For next year, the team has already secured $70,000 in federal stimulus money for replacement equipment and another $73,000 in federal funds to procure fresh fruits and vegetables.