LAKE GEORGE -- Longer lines at Lake George Junior-Senior High school’s lunch counter are helping the school’s bottom line.
More students are purchasing meals since the district revamped its fall menus, after hiring Culinary Institute of America graduate Larry Young as food service director.
Nearly 8,100 meals were purchased in October, and the program made a profit of almost $2,700, according to district Business Manager Kate DuBois.
“Participation continues to increase, and the buzz is very good,” she said at Tuesday’s Lake George Board of Education meeting.
More employees are buying lunches as well, DuBois said.
Young said the lunch program also did well in November, though he didn’t have final numbers.
“We’ve sold more this year than we did last year, and our enrollment has gone down,” he said.
Last year, fewer people bought school lunches because of new federal guidelines set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Those guidelines decreased portion sizes and the amount of sodium and saturated fats allowed in meals, while increasing the amount of whole grains served.
The breakfast and lunch programs ran a deficit of more than $111,000 last year. Expenses were $314,000, and the district took in $203,000 in revenue, according to the year-end treasurer’s report. Money was tapped from surplus to make up the difference.
Young told the board Tuesday things have been going well. The first priority was winning students’ trust.
“My philosophy is if you can make good food, the rest will fall into place,” he said.
Young has changed old recipes to make them healthier. For example, a classic called “The Warrior Bowl” used to be made from instant mashed potatoes, popcorn chicken, canned corn, gravy from a mix and cheese sauce. Young substituted freshly made mashed potatoes, real pulled chicken breast instead of processed nuggets, homemade gravy, frozen corn and less cheese.
Young said it was important to implement gradual changes. As the year has gone on, he has experimented with new offerings, such as a chicken curry dish.
“If I tried that on day one, I think I would have lost most of the kids,” he said.
Students have provided a lot of feedback, Young said.
“They certainly let me know when I’ve messed up,” he said.
Most of his attention has been on the junior-senior high school, but beginning in January, he will start remaking the elementary school menus.
“We have a lot of work to do,” he said.