OSWEGO — Proceeds from concessions at athletic contests and other events will go to fund Oswego City School District’s food service program, marking a departure from the previous model where community organizations and groups adjacent to Bucs athletics would use concession sales as a means to fundraise.
Oswego City School District (OCSD) Superintendent Matis Calvin III recently announced the new approach to concessions as a way to prevent further financial losses. The district, Calvin said, has not received any federal or state reimbursements for their free lunch for all program. The program was instituted by the state as part of school COVID-19 reopening requirements, allowing students to get free lunch and breakfast during the 2021-22 school year. In a way, Calvin said, the concessions revenue will help “stop the bleeding.”
“We would like to do some rebuilding our own finances,” he said. “Our nutritional program, we haven’t gotten any reimbursement for anything as of yet. The daily cost is going up and up and up every day. We want to stop the bleeding where we can.”
The concession stands at the Bucs’ new turf field, part of the $63.1 million Capital Project approved by voters in late 2018, reopened for the first time at the beginning of September during the first boys varsity soccer game of the season. The concession stands have all new-equipment and now features offerings such as assorted pizza, hot dogs, corn dogs, chili, tacos, chicken tenders, burgers, fries, nachos, pretzels, salads, popcorn, cotton candy, and ice cream.
In the past, community groups and booster organizations for Bucs extracurricular teams would sell concessions at athletic contests and other events. Now, the concession stands are operated by OCSD food service staff.
“That is because the food service department has been trained in operating the new equipment. There is specialized equipment that is all brand new,” said OCSD Executive Director of Business and Finance Nancy Squairs. “We have cash registers programmed with the sales tax in there.”
Squairs added the County Health Department told district officials there may be liability issues if non-trained staff operate some of the equipment at the new concession stands.
Calvin and Squairs noted they are going to try and work with groups that used to fundraise off concession sales to help mitigate any loss in fundraising revenue.
“Once we get more information from (our legal team) and look at where we are fiscally, then we can start to think about ways to partner with outside groups just to help mitigate the loss that is there,” Calvin noted.
Members of one of OCSD’s largest parent-led fundraising organizations said they have been integral in the operation of concession stands during athletic contests, but they see the move to new concession stand offerings as another way for the district to move forward.
“The Buc Boosters are excited for the new athletic facilities for our student-athletes and all students in the district,” said Buc Boosters board member Matt Seubert. “The recent opening of the concession stand in the turf stadium is another step in elevating Oswego athletics.”
Seubert said the organization has been adjusting their fundraising tactics to not solely rely on concessions revenue over the last few years.
“Member donations from the community and business sponsorship of (Buc Booster) events now provide the majority of Booster funding, Seubert said. “These donated funds help the Buc Boosters support our student-athletes and build school and community spirit.”
Seubert said Buc Boosters will continue to work with the district to further their mission.
“We are eager to continue working with the (school district) to make Oswego a beacon of school and community pride,” Seubert said.
Board of Education members agreed with the decision made by the district.
“I love it,” said Board member Pamela Dowd. “The district paid for the concession stand and our employees should be in there. We should reap the benefits from the concession stands.”
Board Vice President Tom Ciappa highlighted the importance of having trained staff operating food services.
“It makes sense to have our staff work the stands instead of volunteers who don’t know how to properly cook (some of the food items),” Ciappa said.