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Revenue from ‘reimbursable meals’ on the decline in Salem schools

SALEM — The school administration is looking at ways to increase revenue in the food services department.

The amount of money the school district receives from the federal government for reimbursable meals is down substantially this year, Superintendent Michael Delahanty said. The net revenue for the program is down by about $40,000 compared to last year, he said.

“Our equivalent meals, also known as the a la carte meals, is what is really carrying us in terms of where we are earning our money,” said Delahanty.

More students are opting for the a la carte meal options as opposed to the full reimbursable meals, Delahanty said.

Delahanty said he plans on further discussions with the school board about how the district can increase revenue as well as what might be considered a reimbursable meal in the eyes of the federal government.

“The federal government did change the guidelines for what qualifies for a reimbursable meal,” said Delahanty. “It has to do with the food choices (the students) are making and what they are accepting on their trays and what they are not accepting. It’s impacting what we are getting back for reimbursable meals.”

The issue will be discussed internally before being brought back to the school board for further discussion and action, Delahanty said.

In addition to the loss of federal funds for reimbursable meals, Delahanty said the total cost per meal prepared in the district has increased by 9 cents over last year.

“We will have additional discussion in our upcoming meetings on the costs and what we are charging for meals,” he said. “There are some reviews we need to make of the food services program, and we still need to make every effort to increase participation.”

This year, lunches are $1.55 at the elementary schools, $1.70 at the middle school, and $2.10 at the high school.

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