The price of lunch in Region 15 is going up.
Due to what the Region 15 Board of Education called ‘rising costs of higher quality foods and cafeteria supplies’, lunch prices will be increased effective Friday, Feb. 1.
The board, upon recommendation of the finance subcommittee, voted unanimously to increase the price of school lunch district wide. Elementary and middle school lunch price will go up 35 cents per meal, from $2.40 to $2.75. The high school lunch price will go up from $2.60 to $2.90. The last price increase for a school hot lunch was in 2010.
Region 15 Finance Committee chairman Paul Babarik said that the Board recognized the need to raise prices early on, due to new federal regulations and increased costs.
“We tabled any price increases back at the beginning of the academic year to give us an opportunity to study the impact of new regulations and market increases,” said Babarik.
New lunch guidelines passed in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, were designed to improve the health and nutrition of children who participate in school lunch programs. These guidelines require doubling the servings of fruits and vegetables, with less sodium and fat, according to the board.
Access to more nutritious meals, specific portion requirements, and rising supply costs have led to the increased cost of a school lunch entrée and milk.
Region 15 tracked food prices over a one-year period (September 2011 - September 2012) and noted an average increase of 10-12 percent. Cheese and dairy prices fluctuate month to month, but during that year, the price of cheese rose from $1.89 per pound to $2.69 per pound and milk prices went up 8.5 percent, according to the board.
“We are now required to serve 3/4 cup to 1 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily in addition to a starch and legumes. Half of the grains we serve must be whole grain this year; next year, the requirements rise to 100 percent,” said Peter Brooks, Region 15 Director of Food Service.
The district also reported a double-digit increase for its cafeteria supplies. The cost of a 500-piece case of five-component meal trays rose 14 percent while a case of plastic ware went from $5.63 to $10.64, an increase of 88.8 percent.
The Region 15 lunch program is self-supporting and operates separately from the general school district budget. The Food Service department covers all of its costs including labor, food, supplies, equipment from revenues they receive from paid lunches and federal reimbursements, according to the board.