Columbus schools' meal program lost $1.75 million last year

Unpaid meal debt accounts for $300,000.

July 29—Columbus City Schools’ foodservice program lost $1.75 million this past school year, including about $300,000 in uncollected debt from students who were required to pay for meals but didn’t.

The deficit has the district considering a new federal program that would require it to serve free lunches and breakfasts to every student, regardless of income, to possibly lose less money, Food Service Director Joe Brown told the district Audit Committee yesterday evening.

Despite losing money again — a problem for the food-service program year after year — the program made progress. Brown had projected that his department would lose $2.12 million during the 2012-13 school year, so the actual result was about $370,000 better than expected.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
food snap

We started a 50-member vegan team in response to students expressing the need for more vegan options. Between our monthly meetings, students are asked to take photos of foods they eat in and out of the dining halls to give us a true picture of the kinds of things they like and the kinds of foods that cause disappointment. This exercise has sparked a lot of conversation and given us more insight into what we could do better.

Ideas and Innovation
hybrid worker

Some of our employees can work four 10-hour days. It’s really helped with balance. We’ve also created a lot of hybrid positions, such as a personal services assistant and foodservice worker role. It allows workers to pick up more shifts and cover both positions.

Ideas and Innovation
cheeseburger

We set up an interactive collaboration with our dietetics department where students worked with our culinary team to test how recipes are imagined and produced. One of the recipes they came up with was a barbecue tempeh sandwich, which they believed was a great option for vegan students across campus. We added the sandwich to our On the Go program and then expanded it to our vegan station on campus due to its success.

Ideas and Innovation
salad bowl

We have reorganized our salad bars to not only include the traditional DIY salad ingredients, but also several daily entree salads. Our students requested 32-ounce heavy glass salad bowls that have been wildly popular. The big bowls allow students to load up on their favorite salads and customize with additional ingredients from around the servery. We have seen a significant surge in usage that cuts across all groups, including athletes.

FSD Resources