Chartwells, Farmington schools' cafeteria vendor, gave an update to the Board of Education Monday night and though the news wasn't exactly good, there was a silver lining - the district won't be covering the deficit alone.
Farmington contracted with Chartwells beginning in the 2012-13 school year because the town's self-run program was rapidly losing money and the board was looking for a healthier option.
Chartwells promised to take care of both and the vendor debuted numerous healthy meals to students in Farmington schools - both by choice and under the strict requirement of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Beginning in September 2012, the USDA rolled out new regulations for what schools can serve - smaller and limited numbers of portions of grains, smaller protein portions and mandatory servings of fruit and vegetables.
This has been one of Chartwell's greatest challenges, said Tim Malley, director of dining services in Farmington. Students were disappointed by the smaller portions and the elimination of favorite menu items, he said.
Malley admitted that his own children, who attend Region 10 schools, used to buy lunch 90 percent of the time but have now dropped to about 50 percent because they just don't always like the healthy options.
"Participation has been relatively flat in Farmington but in the state we've seen a 4 percent decline. We’re up .12 percent but that's better than going down," he said.
Initial inventory costs and training staff have also been considerable expenses, Malley said.
But weather has really been a problem. The company has lost 10 revenue days when the district's five snow days are combined with the late start of school.
Malley did not offer a figure of how much the program would lose by the end of the year but Superintendent Kathleen Greider assured the board that the district would not be responsible for making up the loss.
Greider said she was pleased with the partnership with Chartwells.
"Chartwells is willing to exceed the contract to address any deficit at the end of the year, which speaks to their long-term commitment to the Farmington school district," Greider said. "We do have some reserve in our school lunch program and I feel comfortable that if everything works out the way it looks today, we’ll be in a good place."