The Derry Cooperative School District will raise full-price school lunches for students and adults by 10 cents for the 2016-17 school year.
At its May 24 meeting, the board heard a presentation from Business Manager Jane Simard and Food Service Director Susan Baroskas. They outlined how the Federal government wants schools to gradually increase lunch prices to match what the Feds are giving in reimbursement for Free and Reduced-Price lunches.
After the presentation, the board voted unanimously to approve the increase.
Simard reminded the board that she has come before them in the past to make the same request. As part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the government mandated equity in lunch pricing.
“Currently,” Simard said, “we are not charging what the Federal government is reimbursing us.” When she speaks of “free” lunches, she means lunches that are Federally reimbursed, Simard said.
Baroskas said a “free” lunch currently costs $3.13. A “reduced” lunch is $2.73, with the child paying 40 cents.
To bring the lunch prices in line with the Federal reimbursement of $3.13 would require increasing lunch prices by 17 cents, Simard said. But the Feds allow a phased-in approach, she added, saying, “You are not mandated to increase more than 10 cents a year.”
The full 17 cents would get them in full compliance, both said. But 10 cents would get them a lot closer.
Simard said a 10-cent raise at the elementary school would bring a child’s lunch to $2.60 and an adult lunch to $3.55. “We don’t have to increase the adult lunches, but we want to increase revenue,” she said. Reduced lunch would remain at 40 cents, and free lunch would remain free, she said.
Middle school children’s lunches would rise to $2.80, adults would pay $3.55, reduced lunch would be 40 cents and free lunch would remain free.
Breakfast would remain $1.40 at all schools, $1.60 for adults, 30 cents for reduced-pay and free to those eligible for free breakfast.
Simard and Baroskas discussed several options, including:
• Option A, the one they recommended, with a 10-cent increase to full-price adult and student meals. The cost to the district would be $2,457.40.
• Option B, the district and the parents splitting the cost, $1,200 each.
• Option C, the district picking up the entire tab for the increase to the meals.
• Option D, the full increase of 17 cents to bring them into compliance, cost to district of $4,177.
• Option D, passing the full increase of 17 cents on to the students.
With the 10-cent option, they will still have to come up with another 7 cents next year, Simard said.
“We think 10 cents is reasonable and fair,” she said. “We want to keep our participation high. We are serving quality meals.”
An increase of 5 cents per meal for the full year, every meal offered, would come out to $9 per child, she said. The 10-cent option would come out to an additional $18 per child, and the full 17 cents, an additional $30 per child.
Chairman Dan McKenna favored the 10-cent option, observing that it’s hard enough for some families to pay for school lunches. Some fall into the cracks between qualifying for reduced lunch and full payment, he said.
Simard said the 10-cent option is the one favored by herself, Baroskas, and the Food Service Committee.
The board voted unanimously to approve the increase for the 2016-17 school year.
The board, Simard and Baroskas also discussed Federal requirements for what goes on the tray.
In addition, Simard noted the amounts of the unpaid school lunch balances at each school as follows:
• Gilbert H. Hood Middle, $816.90;
• Grinnell Elementary, $438.82;
• West Running Brook Middle, $322.61.
• East Derry Memorial Elementary, $254.56;
• Derry Village Elementary, $198.41;
• Ernest P. Barka Elementary, $177.10;
• South Range Elementary, $157,65; and
The total across the district is $2,366.05.
Simard urged parents to pay their back balances. “Food Service cannot by law have a negative balance,” she said. “We as a district have to cover it.”
Simard and Baroskas noted that in order to be reimbursed, each child’s tray has to have a required amount of items, including a mandated fruit and/or vegetable. That doesn’t always go over well, Simard said, noting, “Sometimes the kid just doesn’t want it.”
But Baroskas solved at least that part of the waste problem, placing fruit in individual bags and leaving a bowl on the counter. That way if a child doesn’t want their fruit, they can restore it to the bowl. The fruit is then free to anyone in the cafeteria, and the leftovers go to the after-school program.
McKenna brought up the issue of withdrawing from the Federal program. The board discussed it last year, he said, “but we didn’t see a way to make up that revenue.”
Member Lynn Perkins said one of the arguments for withdrawing was the amount of waste generated by the mandated tray items. “But you seem to have dealt with it,” he told Baroskas.
“Only as far as fruit goes,” Baroskas said. “The other items are still a challenge.”
The board unanimously approved the change, which will be posted on the district Web site at HYPERLINK “http://www.sau10.org” www.sau10.org.