“I get to ask you all for $20 million,” said Elkin City Schools Child Nutrition Director Debbie McCoin as she addressed the local school board last Monday night.
To clarify, board member James Freeman said she was asking the school board to ask the state for $20 million.
In her presentation to the board, McCoin explained Lynn Harvey, head of child nutrition services for the state Department of Public Instruction, “has had this on the back burner since 2008, and through the grapevine, she was told this year is a good year to push for it.”
Child nutrition departments do not receive any funding from the state, instead it is federally funded. McCoin said more than half the school systems in North Carolina lost a lot of money in child nutrition last year. “Others broke even. It all has to do with the new guidelines out there,” she said.
Statewide, there was a $39 million loss between the average cost to produce a school lunch of $3.42 each and the federal reimbursement for each meal of $3.15. McCoin said in Elkin, that 27-cent-per-meal loss equated to $8,750 last year.
Harvey will be approaching the General Assembly to request $20 million, enough funding to make up 13 cents of that 27-cent loss, McCoin said. “At one time we were asking for $40 million, but we thought that was pushing it.”
The gap in the shortfall to date has been made up out of the school systems’ local funds, McCoin explained.
She said some of the loss in revenue for child nutrition comes from the Smart Snack federal regulations, which don’t allow the school systems to sell the snacks kids really want to purchase. “We started at $125 million in supplemental sales, and now we are down to $62 million, because we are not able to sell items we were able to sell 10 years ago. Since they brought in the new snack program, we are at a zero operating budget, we are operating monthly.”
Statewide, child nutrition departments are requesting of their school board and superintendents to send letters to state representatives and senators asking for their support of the funding request. “If they know our board is behind us, the consensus is they’ll be willing to step behind us,” McCoin said.
Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe did update the board on Elkin City Schools’ child nutrition status for the 2015-16 school year compared to the previous year. “Last year, we ran at $40,000 loss, that’s a pretty big deficit,” he said. “Her staff is to be commended for their hard work this year. At the end of March, we were only $4,000 in the hole, and we think with April’s numbers we will be at zero balance.”
Bledsoe said data shows a lot of kids rely on the school nutrition programs for nutritious breakfast and lunch, and the school board should support the child nutrition request.
“Is there any chance for more federal funding? Because they’re the ones that did it,” asked board member Dr. Jane Riley.
“No,” responded McCoin, as she added, they are unable to sell snacks like Little Debbie cakes and no drink that isn’t water or 100-percent juice.
The school board supported the child nutrition request when it passed the item in its consent agenda.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.