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Area schools raise student meal costs to meet federal mandate

By Christina Lane
May 17, 2011 at 11 p.m.

The cost of lunch at local school cafeterias is about to go up next year because of a new federal mandate that says there can't be any price difference between free and paid meals.

Essentially, if a school district gets reimbursed $2.76 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture per lunch for a student on the free and reduced lunch program, then students who pay for meals also must be charged $2.76.

Gladewater ISD trustees voted to increase lunch prices 25 cents to start gradually phasing up to a cost of $2.76 for a meal, Superintendent J.P. Richardson said Tuesday.

Meal price hikes are because of requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which added an amendment to the National School Lunch Program that takes effect July 1.

Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, effective for years beginning after July 1, schools are required to charge students for paid meals at a price that is on average equal to the difference between free meal reimbursement and paid meal reimbursement, the amendment states. Schools that charge less are required to gradually increase their prices over time until they meet the requirement, according to the amendment.

Gladewater ISD is phasing in the price increase by raising lunch prices 25 cents. At Gay Avenue Primary and Broadway Elementary schools, the 2011-12 price will be $1.75; at Weldon Intermediate and Gladewater Middle schools, the price will be $2; while the Gladewater High School lunch price will increase to $2.25.

There are no planned changes to breakfast prices at this time, Richardson said.

Like Gladewater ISD, Hallsville ISD approved a 25-cent increase to cafeteria prices for the 2011-12 school year, district spokeswoman Carol Greer said. The district charges $2 for pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade students and $2.25 for students in fifth through 12th grades, she said.

Longview ISD spokesman Adam J. Holland said the district is aware of the new requirement and is working to develop a price structure to comply with the mandate.

According to the LISD website, the 2010-11 cafeteria prices are:

<ul> <li><strong>Elementary school breakfast:</strong> Free</li> <li><strong>Middle/high school breakfast:</strong> $1.25</li> <li><strong>Reduced price breakfast (middle/high schools):</strong> 30 cents</li> <li><strong>Elementary school lunch:</strong> $1.75</li> <li><strong>Middle/high school lunch:</strong> $2</li> <li><strong>Reduced price lunch (all campuses):</strong> 40 cents</li> </ul>

By comparison, according to the White Oak ISD website, the 2010-11 cafeteria prices are:

<ul> <li><strong>Breakfast:</strong> $1.35 all campuses</li> <li><strong>Lunch:</strong> $1.75/elementary $2/secondary</li> <li><strong>Reduced breakfast:</strong> 30 cents</li> <li><strong>Reduced lunch:</strong> 40 cents</li> </ul>

At Pine Tree ISD, officials said they are still studying price changes.

"Pine Tree ISD will need to increase lunch prices for next school year, but no determination has been made at this time about how or when that will take place," said Director of Child Nutrition Michelle Mitchell.

Pine Tree charges $2 for lunch in prekindergarten through fourth grades and $2.25 for fifth- through 12th-grade students.

"The district is studying how to address the increased lunch prices and will announce the decision at a future date," Mitchell said. "We are working hard on a solution that will provide the best possible option for our families."



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