It’s that time of year again. While districts are preparing for the end of classes, school boards across the country are looking ahead to next year. At the top of many agendas – school meal prices. Food labor and other costs continue to rise, putting increased financial pressures on the school nutrition programs. The recession is also adding to this strain, as many more families qualify for free or reduced price meals. With growing costs and limited federal reimbursements, school nutrition programs are increasingly going into the red.
To keep the school nutrition programs financially solvent, many districts are considering price increases for paid meals. Here is a sampling of meal increases under consideration:
According to SNA’s September 2008 study, Heat’s On: School Meals Under Financial Pressure, the average price of a paid elementary school lunch was $1.86. This figure is expected to increase for the upcoming school year. School nutrition programs are doing their best to keep the cost of meals affordable for students, while keeping their programs financially sound.
Unfortunately, $1.86 is a far cry from $2.92, the average cost to prepare a school meal. The federal reimbursement rate must be raised to help keep the price of a school meal reasonable. School districts that have a low percentage of free and reduced price eligible students struggle the most. This is why SNA is asking Congress to increase the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 35 cents across all eligibility categories. Increasing the federal reimbursement rate is one of SNA’s key priorities for Reauthorization 2009.
Is your school district increasing the price of a lunch? If not, what are you doing to keep your program out of a deficit? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.
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