Students eat into lunch program deficit, causing February surplus

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MONROE, CT — School age residents feasted on macaroni and cheese bites, chicken nuggets and other meals in February, to give Monroe public schools’ lunch program its first monthly surplus this year.

Federal reimbursements per meal for school breakfasts and lunches will help to close the district’s budget deficit for the program, which usually pays for itself but was hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza said February was the first full month the district was able to get everyone to participate in the lunch and breakfast program.

“We did about 38,000 meals that month,” Kobza said to the Board of Education Tuesday. “This is the first month that we actually had a surplus. We had a surplus of $26,676, which brings our overall deficit down from $141,000 to $115,000.”

Kobza said the district also received $15,000 worth of COVID funds to pay for the new packaging for meals going out.

“That gets us down to about $100,000 with March, April, May and a little bit of June to go, so hopefully we can continue on this track and really cut into that deficit before the end of the year,” he said.

Chairwoman Donna Lane said April will hurt the effort with students getting a week off for spring break, but expressed optimism with no time off during March and May.

Last day of school is Thursday, June 10.

Kobza, whose administration has been working closely with the food service provider, Sodexo, throughout the year, shared the update on the school lunch program with the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday.

“We have a bit of good news,” Kobza said of the surplus. “It’s been a lot of hard work on everyone’s part to try to go after this deficit in the food service program.”

There has been a massive effort by the district to increase participation in the school lunch program with pickups for families, who order meals to take home, as well as from serving meals when students are in school.

Sodexo expanded its program for every resident age 18 and younger, because more meals mean more federal reimbursement under the National School Lunch program.

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