May 14, 2009 -- Economic indicators released today are just the latest sign that school meal reimbursements need to be increased through the child nutrition reauthorization process in Congress this year. According to the New York Times, "much of the increase in producer prices in April was the result of a 1.5% jump in food prices."
The food price increase was driven in part by several foods that are common school lunch and breakfast menu items. Eggs broke a record, rising 43.7% last month. Vegetables climbed 5.2% while fresh fruit also saw a marked increase. Beef was up by 4.5% while pork rose 2.5%
According to USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) predictions, this year the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase 3.0% to 4.0%, as lower commodity and energy costs combine with weaker domestic and global economies to pull inflation down from 2008 levels. Food-at-home prices are forecast to increase 2.5% to 3.5%, while food-away-from-home prices (the indicator used to determine school meal reimbursement rates) are forecast to increase 3.5% to 4.5% in 2009. The all-food CPI increased 5.5 percent between 2007 and 2008, the highest annual increase since 1990. Food-at-home prices, led by fats and oil prices (up 13.8 percent) and cereals and bakery product prices (up 10.2 percent), increased 6.4 percent, while food-away-from-home prices rose 4.4 percent in 2008.
As school nutrition programs continue efforts to menu more fruits, vegetables, whole grain and lowfat dairy items, the current federal school lunch reimbursement rate of $2.57 for lunches provided in the "free" category is no longer adequate to cover the food, labor and additional costs necessary to provide the meal. SNA is calling on Congress to provide an increase of 35 cents per school lunch as part of the child nutrition reauthorization process.
Have you seen food prices increase, stay the same or come down a bit during this year's bid cycle? Please post examples of what you are seeing in the comment box below.
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