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BOE faces surplus in cafeteria account

SALEM

SALEM — Food, glorious food — that’s what Assistant Superintendent/High School Principal Sean Kirkland reported on Monday for the school board, from a $500,000 surplus in the cafeteria fund to programs to ensure every student gets something to eat.

Superintendent Dr. Joe Shivers also talked food, announcing a program with Second Harvest Food Bank to have non-perishable food items available at the schools, including two locations at the high school where students can help themselves to what’s there. Maintenance staff will pick up the food at the food bank in Youngstown.

“We’re looking forward to that,” he said.

Kirkland credited The Nutrition Group, which manages food services for the district, with doing “a phenomenal job of budgeting” and getting the district into a position to have the surplus in the cafeteria operation. As a result, the state is requiring the school district to submit a report detailing how the district plans to spend the money down.

He said there are a number of ways to do that, such as spending the money on additional help, for increasing portion sizes for student meals or for purchasing equipment, such as replacing a steamer that went down. According to Kirkland, having to find ways to spend a surplus in the cafeteria is a nice problem to have.

In the pleasant surprise department, he announced that an anonymous donor stepped forward with $2,600 to pay the outstanding balances owed by students for lunches at Buckeye and Southeast. He said the donor is also considering an additional donation to cover what’s owed by students at Reilly. If that happens, he said all outstanding balances will be wiped clean. Earlier this year, the Salem V.F.W. Post 892 donated over $900 to cover the outstanding balances on the bills owed at the high school and junior high.

Since January 2018, students at Buckeye have eaten for free due to the high percentage of students on free and reduced lunch after the board agreed to absorb the cost. Kirkland said the students at Reilly may be next, noting that the school housing third and fourth grades now exceeds 40 percent on free and reduced lunch, so the district may look at offering Reilly students the same deal, at a cost of about $14,000. The decision will require board action.

Kirkland explained that two areas in the cafeteria where there seem to be problems are sometimes running out of food trays and transporting the food to the elementary schools. He said they had a few snafus with the lunch count, maybe a kid who said they weren’t going to eat decided to eat or for some other reason, they didn’t have enough. So a pilot program has been started to take the highest average count and add 30 additional lunches.

“What is does ensure is that no kids going to go without a lunch,” he said.

For next year, the elementary students will have some additional choices for lunch, with two hot lunch options instead of one and a fruit and veggie bar, similar to what’s available at the junior high and high school.

Kirkland also announced the free summer lunch program for students in the district 18 and under begins June 3. He said coaches are already planning some of the summer schedules for their teams around the lunch schedule so they can eat. The board approved hiring Maryann Mason and Chrystal Skidmore as employees for the lunch program. Action to contract with the Nutrition Group for food services management was removed from the agenda and will be handled at a future board meeting.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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