Students attending classes in the Lonedell R-XIV School District will pay an extra nickel to eat provided lunches after the board of education approved the price increase in May. The school board improved the hike as part of its annual budgeting process, which is expected to be finalized on Tuesday when the board meets again.
In St. Clair R-XIII, school lunch prices will go up a dime while breakfast prices will increase by 5 cents. That decision was made by the R-XIII board of education during its June meeting on Thursday night.
The cost to eat the school-provided lunch at St. Clair Elementary and Edgar Murray Elementary this coming academic year will increase 10 cents to $2.15 per meal, and breakfast prices will go up a nickel to $1.30.
At both the junior and senior high schools, lunch will cost $2.25 and breakfast $1.30.
Lunch prices increased a nickel at all four schools from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012. Breakfast prices during that time stayed the same.
Chartwells Food Dining provides the meals to the St. Clair school district.
The cost of a district-provided lunch will be $1.75 for the upcoming 2012-2013 academic year compared to $1.70 this past year. The lunch price was $1.65 two years ago.
Chartwells also provides the lunch service to Lonedell and is in the second of a five-year contract. The company increased its prices 11 cents from $2.82 charged per meal last year to $2.93 this year.
The district eats the cost difference but plans for it as a budgeted expense.
“The goal is to break even with this or even make a little money,” R-XIV Superintendent Fred VanBibber said. “Any money we would ever make would be used to keep our (kitchen) equipment updated.”
VanBibber said the district has been in the red with its lunch program by as much as $35,000 in recent years, however, and will lose money again this year.
The lunch price increase is mandatory through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both VanBibber and St. Clair R-XIII Superintendent Mike Murphy said.
The hike is required through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide the same level of support for lunches served to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunches as they are for lunches to students eligible for free lunches.
The act directs the participants to compare the average price charged for lunches served to students not eligible for free or reduced-price lunches to the difference between the higher federal reimbursement provided for free lunches and the lower federal reimbursement provided for paid lunches. If the average paid lunch price is less than the difference, the district must either gradually adjust average prices or provide non-federal funding to cover the difference.
Therefore, school districts such as Lonedell and St. Clair slowly will have to raise lunch prices to federal guidelines in order to keep getting the assistance.
VanBibber told The Missourian that R-XIV could have raised prices 7 cents this fall, but opted to hike the cost 5 cents, the minimum required under the act.
“It’s all part of the formula,” he said. “We have to plug in the numbers to determine our figures. It’s a tool used by the USDA that we’re required to use to determine our prices.”
VanBibber said teacher lunch prices probably will be raised a nickel, too, from $2.55 to $2.60.
Murphy and R-XIII Assistant Superintendent Mark Denbow gave St. Clair board members about the same explanation on Thursday night.
“The program requires school districts to raise prices through the formula used,” Denbow said. “The way the law reads, we really don’t have any choice. This is the lowest we can go and remain in compliance. If we don’t do it, we could lose our federal funding for it.”