Cost of lunch is going up

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- The cost of lunch at Monmouth and Independence schools will go up this fall.

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- The cost of lunch at Monmouth and Independence schools will go up this fall.

Central School Board voted to raise the price of meals by 25 cents at elementary schools, Talmadge Middle School and Central High School for the 2012-13 school year.

The decision affects students not covered under the free or reduced lunch program and was made so Central remains in compliance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

"I'm not happy about it, especially when I think the price for lunch right now is reasonable," said Michael Vetter, district food services director. "We're being forced to."

Cost for elementary students will be $2.25, and $2.50 for the secondary schools.

The provision won't impact students receiving free or reduced meals, or free breakfasts and dinners.

The Obama administration act authorizes federal funding for school meal programs and increases access to healthy foods for low-income children.

Central and other districts raised lunch prices last year because of a cost parity directive; federal research showed the average prices charged for lunches by some schools are less than production costs.

This increases subsidies for higher-income kids because federal funds intended for free/reduced lunches are filling the gap between what a paid lunch costs and what a school receives for it.

Central staved off lunch price hikes for about a decade until 2011, but the expense of producing a meal has grown because of ingredient prices and surcharges for fuel, Vetter said.

Vetter said it costs about $2.20 to produce a meal -- about 20 cents more than it did last year. Federal reimbursements are 28 cents for non-reduced lunches, $2.39 for reduced lunches and $2.79 for free meals.

Almost 55 percent of Central's 2,958 enrolled students are on free or reduced lunch. Vetter said he doesn't believe the added cost will deter many students from buying food here.

"To buy a lunch for $2.25 that has an entree, fruits, vegetables and milk, you'll probably spend that much at home if you make it yourself," he said.

School districts in Dallas, Falls City and Perrydale have not yet considered school lunch price increases.

"We have almost 80 percent of our students on free or reduced lunch," said Lynn Love, Falls City business manager, noting that her district left lunch costs unchanged in 2011. "We wouldn't gain all that much from it."


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