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Potsdam’s school cafeteria budget “currently in the black”

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POTSDAM - Potsdam Central School Food Services Manager David Gravlin reported to board of education members Tuesday that his operation is currently n the black’ but with more changes expected to food service regulations he said he’s not sure if the department will be able to turn a profit again next year.

At this point, Mr. Gravlin said the district is $15,700 in the black.

“That’s probably the best since I’ve been around,” he said, adding that revenues are down slightly at the high school, but up at both the elementary and middle schools.

“Our revenues are down for breakfast as predicted,” Mr. Gravlin said. “This is our first year for the new breakfast regulations, and I attribute this decrease to that.”

On the contrary though, Mr. Gravlin said lunch revenues are up in each building.

“We haven’t seen all the kids come back, but slowly they are,” he said. “We’re hoping to see that trend continue.”

School districts, including Potsdam, had reported significant decreases in their cafeteria revenues last year after new federal standards requiring more whole grain, fat free or low fat milk, “right-sized portions” and limits on saturated fat on school menus were implemented by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The healthier meal requirements were a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by the First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! Campaign and signed into law by President Obama.

One of the reasons for the department’s success is increased ala carte sales.

“We had to get creative with how kids could purchase their lunch,” he said, adding that while nothing is official yet he’s expecting ala carte sales to be regulated next year.

“We won’t be selling ice cream,” he said. “All potato chips that aren’t baked will be eliminated.”

Mr. Gravlin continued that beverage sales in the elementary are expected to be limited to water, milk and 100 percent juice.

He said he’s expecting the new regulations to be adopted by July 1 in advance of the 2014-2015 school year.

“We’ll handle it just like we did the other two,” he said referring to lunch and breakfast regulations. “We’ll make some changes and we’ll get through it.”

Board of education President Christopher C. Cowen Jr. said he feels if the cafeteria turns a profit that’s good, but if it is unable to do so it’s not the end of the world.

“I don’t know of anywhere else in the district that we look at and ask, ‘Is it making money?’” he said, adding he feels like food service managers are given an unfair amount of pressure. “It’s part of the cost of doing business.”

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