The food service operation in Brick Township schools is still in the red, but thanks to some new measures put in place, a profit may be realized by the end of the school year.
"The Board of Education wants nothing better than for the food service operation to be profitable and have a positive cash flow," said school board member Larry Reid.
The state considers food service operations in schools to be "enterprise operations," meaning they should not take up tax dollars that would be otherwise spent on educational services such as supplies or teacher salaries.
Altogether, students spend about $16,000 at schools cafeterias each day, said Reid, but that has not been enough to get the entire operation into the black. Factor in Superstorm Sandy, and the fact that salaries still had to be paid even though schools were closed and no sales were being made, and a further dent was made into profitability.
But in December, the cafeterias did better than expected, and thanks to some relief from the federal government with regard to new food standards, lunch sales should conceivably pick up soon.
There has been a dip in lunch sales this year, said Reid, which has been seen across the country thanks to new nutrition standards that have made school lunches less appetizing.
"It's been a problem for all cafeterias in all the school districts," said Reid. "Trying to get the kids to make the switch is not that easy."
But the district began breakfast service to the middle schools this year, and has added healthy vending machines as well as a "tropical ice" station in some schools that sell ice treats made out of fruit juice that has proven popular.
The current budget projects a profit of about $144,000 by the time school ends in June.
The district is encouraging more students – as well as teachers and staff – to purchase their lunches at school.
If the food service operation continues to run deficits, officials have warned that the district's food service workers could all lose their jobs and be replaced by a private food service company whose contract would be bid out.