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Getting students fed

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Walter Sprague/NLJ Weston County School District No. 1 students during the kindergarten through second-grader’s performance at the Newcastle Elementary School choir program on Tuesday, April 23.
Mary Stroka, NLJ Reporter

Weston County School District No. 1 may need to transfer more money from its general fund for its food service program, business manager Angela Holliday said in a report she gave at the April 24 school board meeting. It was also revealed that processing costs for the district’s fledgling meat donation program have been higher than anticipated and that may make the budget shortfall even more significant than it appears.

Holliday said in the third quarter financial report she presented at the meeting that the food service fund carryover is almost exhausted due to the cost of food and supplies. She told the NLJ in an email on May 3 that she anticipates that the district’s food service program’s fund will need about $25,000 to $35,000 from the general fund to balance, which is about what past years required.

She said that it’s her understanding that before the COVID-19 pandemic, this problem was “pretty normal,” but she noted at the meeting that the school board’s expenses are also “kind of high” this year because of beef processing costs and legal fees. Holliday explained in her email that the board’s legal fees relate to policies and personnel, but the other hit on the board’s budget is related to food service.

She indicated in the email to the NLJ that the processing fees for the large donation of beef the school district received required processing fees that were an “unexpected” expense for the lunch fund. As a result, the school board used money budgeted for its own operation in combination with a small grant that the district received from the School Protein Enhancement Project to cover the processing cost.

The situation was created when the district opted into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program for meat to help supplement the federal lunch funds, Holliday said in her email. In her second-quarter report, which she gave at the Jan. 31 school board meeting, Holliday said that the board covered the cost from the beef processing apart from a $500 donation that the district received and applied for $2,066 in School Protein Enhancement Project grant funding.

In 2021, Wyoming legislators passed House Bill 52, which created the School Protein Enhancement Project, wherein the Wyoming Department of Education can provide dollar-for-dollar funding to school districts to pay for the processing of Wyoming poultry, lamb, pork, beef or bison that school districts receive as a donation for students’ lunches.

Holliday said at the meeting that costs were also driven up because a lot of the co-ops backed out of their contracts, so the district has a limited number of suppliers to buy from. Co-ops are backing out of contracts because they are unable to provide the district with product, she said in her email.

Superintendent Brad LaCroix said at the April 24 meeting that he is grateful to all the community members who donated beef and beef processing.

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