SEBRING — School lunch prices will increase next school year, making it four years in a row that parents will be paying more for lunches if their children don’t qualify for free or reduced priced meals.
School lunches will increase 10 cents at both the elementary and secondary schools - from $2.35 to $2.45 and $2.65 to $2.75, respectively.
It will be the fourth year secondary school lunches have seen a 10-cent increase every year, and the third year for the 10-cent increase at the elementary level. Elementary lunches increased by 5 cents in the 2010-11 school year.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Food Services Director Martha Brown said each year the district reviews contribution from students who pay for lunches compared to the reimbursement prices for the free and reduced priced meals, to make sure that, “the paid child is putting as much towards the meal cost as the free-child reimbursement.”
The National School Lunch Program requires pricing equity between reimbursable and paid lunches, she explained.
Superintendent Wally Cox noted the price increase is being phased in.
Food Service Manager Tim Thompson said: “It’s kind of like a constant catching up.”
After commenting on the calculations that result in the meal prices, Thompson said he believed the district was not required to increase meal prices by more than 10 cents a year.
If reimbursement rates continue to increase at the rate they have been, the district will be close in meeting the pricing requirements as long as the 10-cent maximum increase stays in place, he explained.
Thompson said Thursday that even with the 10-cent increase, the paid lunch will still be 20 cents less than the reimbursement for “free students.”
“If I increased my meals by a quarter, I am going to lose some participation,” he said. But, there is a 10-cent limit on annual increases so it will increase incrementally.
Seventy-three percent of the school district students receive free or reduced priced lunches.
Prices for adult meals will also be going up next year. Breakfast will increase 25 cents from $1.50 to $1.75 and lunch will increase 25 cents from $3.25 to $3.50.
Overall, with next school year’s increase, elementary school lunches will have increased by 70 cents (40 percent from $1.75 to $2.45) in seven years while the secondary school lunches will have gone up by 75 cents (37.5 percent from $2.00 to $2.75) in seven years.