The will likely raise lunch and breakfast prices 25 cents for the next four years to comply with a federal law. But that doesn't mean all students will have to keep more change in their pockets.
The district currently charges $1.75 for lunch and $0.75 for breakfast and has not risen prices in nine years, the lowest amongst all surrounding districts.
But President Obama’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act now requires schools to charge the federal reimbursement rate of a free lunch or breakfast, or $2.74 and $1.76 respectively. This would achieve equity in school lunch pricing, the law notes.
This increase will generate approximately $61,000 in revenue each year. Yet the district will keep that money in the cafeteria, focusing on how to provide better nutrition and options for students.
No decisions were made at the meeting, but the trustees weighed in on six options that the district suggested for the extra revenue.
Option Pros Cons Price Make reduced price meals free Other districts don't charge Lost revenue: 419 students pay for reduced lunch, 242 for reduced breakfast $43,000 Some students don't eat due to no money Salad bar in Multi-Use Room More vegetable and whole grain pasta salad consumption $50,000 cost increase of vegetables and whole grain pasta $110,000 annually plus one-time $22,000 equipment costs Easy, flexible access Labor cost: $60,000; $5,400 per site Salad bar in speed-line More vegetable and whole grain pasta salad consumption Could slow down speed-line, discourage eating $50,000 Save money on labor, yet may pose additional burden on staff Pre-cut packaged apples More appealing than whole apples Limited refrigeration space $33,000 Whole serving of fruit Possibly need new refrigeration equipment Fresh pineapple, not canned Healthier than canned Limited refrigeration space $43,000 Whole serving of fruit Possibly need new refrigeration equipment Handmade burritos, not packaged Fresher, less packaging More labor costs $65,000
“We have this new pot of money, and it may feel like we’re rich,” trustee Dennis McBride cautioned. “But I want to make sure when money’s gone that we don’t have to raise prices to keep these new changes.”
Factors like increasing food costs and employee wages had to be considered. Employees have not received salary increase in the last three years and no salary increase is projected for this year.
Many boardmembers seemed to favor Option 1 of making the reduced priced lunches free for those who qualified. To qualify for reduced rate lunches, household incomes must make 133 percent of poverty level, according to Anna Lague, Director of the Child Nutrition Department.
Seventy percent of students receive free lunch and 72 percent receive breakfast. Twelve percent of students pay reduced prices for lunch and 11 percent for breakfast. Only 19 percent and 17 percent pay full price for lunch and breakfast, respectively.
“It seems favorable because it gets kids eating,” Trustee Maria Diaz-Slocum said of students’ tendencies to simply skip lunch out of convenience. Board President Alisa MacAvoy added that getting them into a daily routine helps with discipline and behavioral issues.
The boardmembers were less enthused about the apple and pineapple options, expressing concern that children still won’t eat these newly presented fruit either.
Raul Parungao, the district’s Chief Business Official, added that the schools had already tried to make the apples more appealing by slicing them and preventing them from turning brown by soaking them in lemon water. These extra efforts didn’t amount to more apple consumption, but did increase labor costs. MacAvoy added that the extra plastic bags from the apples would present an additional environmental burden.
District staff will return to decide which option they will proceed with.