School lunch prices going up in Woodbury schools
School lunch prices are going up slightly this fall, but if it were up to one District 833 School Board member and Nutrition Services staff, prices would remain the same.
The district receives $2.77 per meal from the federal government for students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, approximately 20 percent of the district's roughly 17,000 students.
But the distribution rules changed under the federal 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The subsidy is $1.07 per meal above the actual cost of an elementary school lunch, according to Barb Osthus, director of Nutrition Services.
The federal government, to make sure that the subsidy is not going to support lunches for families that can afford to pay, said that beginning this year districts had to raise lunch prices 10 cents a year until they reach $2.51 in 2013.
To meet the federal requirement, high school lunches in the South Washington County School District will rise 15 cents to $2.15. Middle school lunches will rise 10 cents to $2.10 and elementary school lunches 10 cents to $1.80, according to Osthus' budget set for approval at the School Board's Thursday, May 24, meeting.
Breakfast prices will remain the same and a la carte food prices will rise or fall based on the supply and overhead cost.
School Board member Ron Kath said he is troubled by the government setting the district's lunch prices.
"I want the public to get into an uproar," he said, suggesting people call their senators and representatives.
"I see your point," said board member Jim Gelbmann. But if the government is giving the district $2.77 for a free or reduced-price lunch and nutrition services is spending $1.90, "the result is that we benefit," he said.
Without the federal money, the district couldn't balance the budget, according to Gelbmann.
"Then we're penalizing the other 80 percent," Kath said of students who don't receive discounted meals, adding that the government has set an arbitrary price.
Congress gave the federal Department of Agriculture the authority to make the rules, Osthus said. Two years from now, the federal government will also dictate what can be offered on a la carte lines, which are now practically non-existent in middle schools.
Last year, the USDA also required schools to make sure water is available in lunch rooms.
Board Chairwoman Leslee Boyd, who suggested Nutrition Services come up with a way to add a fruit flavor so students would drink more water, wondered how offering more water is working.
Water dispensers didn't work at elementary schools, Osthus said, with a lot of water not getting into cups, but it did work well at Park High School, where there are no water fountains.
Water fountains were installed at Hillside, Crestview, Pine Hill and Woodbury elementary schools.
The department decided against flavoring, she said, because of the potential for bacteria in dispensers. Buying flavored bottled water is too expensive.
All schools have some type of a la carte program. Decisions on what will be offered, and how often, involve principals in elementary schools, according to the Nutrition Services report to the board.
High school students expect and enjoy Ala Carte items, which are reviewed annually for nutrition content.
All schools, except Lake Middle School, offer a breakfast program.
Nutrition Services provides breakfast and afternoon snacks to students in Kid's Club, a before- and after-school program. The prices of an afternoon snack will continue at 75 cents.
There is a free milk program for half-day kindergarten students subsidized by state and federal money.
Valley Crossing and Pine Hill schools offer milk snacks for first- and second-grade students with an eight-ounce carton costing 40 cents.
The Summer Food Service Program will be held again this summer at Newport Elementary School as it was last year. Free lunches will be given to children of all ages week days from June 11-29, and from July 16 to Aug. 16. Lunches for Crestview students will be served from July 16 to Aug. 16.
Nutrition Services is in its third year of incorporating fresh, local produce regularly into school menus and offering Food of the Month, which will continue, to educate students about new foods.
Next year's Nutrition Services budget will rise 1.9 percent, Osthus said, mostly for the increased cost of food.