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Monroe School District offers free breakfast program for students

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MONROE – With “food insecurity at an all time high and food pantries bursting at the seams with demand,” the Monroe Township School District is offering a free breakfast program for students five days a week.

The program began on Jan. 11.

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The Monroe Board of Education (BOE) approved the Emergency SSO Food Service Management Company Breakfast Cost Reimbursable Contract between the School Food Authority and the BOE for the 2020-21 school year at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 4.

“Our cafeteria operation has suffered an impairment this year because of schools being closed and COVID-19,” Schools Business Administrator Michael Gorski said. “The only lunches prepared during closures were free and reduced lunches. Because of the closure and impairment of operation, we have certain fixed costs such as depreciation and salaries that we are required to continue to pay.”

The cafeteria fund has run into a net loss situation for the end of year June 30, 2020, which has been felt worse by other school districts, Gorski said. The loss causes the possible loss of New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) points, which is a periodic audit run by the state on school district operations.

“[The other school districts] are suffering worse than we are because [their] losses are a cumulative deficit position,” he said. “We are fortunate we do not have a deficit situation. We still have some retained earnings left in the fund for year end June 30, 2020. However, looking forward to next year another generating segment to the fund is the Emergency Breakfast proposed plan to solicit anyone seeking a free breakfast.”

The district cost is approximately 90 cents to prepare the breakfast and the state reimbursement is twice the amount, which is 100% profit on costs, Gorski said.

“[The program is anticipated] to generate an additional $66,205 of revenue net income for our cafeteria operations,” Gorski said, noting the program is anticipated to serve 625 students who already receive free and reduced lunch. “This is money much needed next year and will help the solvency situation and keep us out of a cumulative deficit.”

Gorski said recently the state opened up the breakfast program to anybody despite free and reduced lunch status. He said previously the qualification for the breakfast program was having a more than 50% free and reduced lunch population. Monroe’s free and reduced lunch population is 5-7%, Gorski said.

“The state is pushing this money out to help districts maintain solvency,” he said. “This is almost a give-me from the state passing through federal money. Many school districts are taking advantage. It’s almost designed in a way to serve those in need with the breakfast program while also giving lifeblood for the cafeteria program to avoid general fund loans.”

Board member Paul Rutsky called the program a win-win for the district.

Gorski said the breakfasts can be picked up or under certain extreme circumstances they can be delivered. He said the district is running a broadcast campaign to solicit students interested in the breakfast program.

For more information, visit www.monroe.k12.nj.us.

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