The cost of school lunches in the West Point School District is going up 50 cents this year for students who pay full price for their meals, which may be a burden for some parents.
Last year the cost of school meals for students paying full price was $2.00 a day, but because the school district has to comply with the requirements in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, through which school districts have to provide the same level of financial support to students who aren’t eligible for free and reduced lunches, the cost had to increase 50 cents more. Right now the federal reimbursement for students receiving free lunches is $2.74, so in order for the reimbursement to be about the same for students who pay full price, the 50 cent increase was necessary, said Susie Walker, child nutrition director. If not for the increase, the district would continue losing money from the $2.00 paid student lunches.
WPSD trustee Diane Jack expressed her concern about the increase, saying some kids may not have the means of paying $2.50 for lunch every day.
“You have to remember that even though a lot of kids may not be eligible for free lunch, a lot of them are just at the borderline, and if we try to put $2.50, we’re going to have a lot of hungry kids walking around school not being able to eat,” Jack said. “We know if children don’t eat, they are not productive in school…All you’re going to be able to put forth is what’s in your mind. If you feed your brain, you produce; if you don’t feed your brain, you don’t produce.”
Jack said the National School Lunch Program does allow school districts to only increase school lunches up to 10 cents, which would allow the district to still be in compliance but also help the students whose parents’ income is on the borderline.
Walker said the price could be increased just 10 cents more, but the school district would still be under the federal paid student reimbursement of $2.76. So if the price was set at 10 cents more this year, it would have to be set again year after year whereas if it were set to 50 cents more right now, that price would remain fixed for the next three to four years before another increase had to be made.
“The reason for this is because the federal laws are making us do this,” Walker said. “The price of our food has gone up about 30 percent this year plus they are tacking on, for every delivery, a fuel charge of $5 per delivery per school, and this is one way for students who are not in the free and reduced area to break even.”
Walker said charts for the 2011-2012 school year has changed a little so students who may not have been in the free or reduced income bracket may fall into that category this year. Also, student can fill out another lunch application every time a status changes in there life that would cause them to not be able to pay the full amount for their lunch. Such status change would be a situation that causes their parent not to be able to go to work.
Increasing the cost of the full price student lunches is of no cost to the school district. Adult lunches were also increased to $3.50 for the upcoming school year. The West Point School Board of Trustees approved these increases Monday night.