NEWS HEADLINES

Elementary meal prices increasing 50 percent

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, August 2, 2014

Students and staff will be paying more for meals this fall at Chico ISD.

On Thursday, the Chico school board voted to raise meal prices for breakfast and lunch.

The price increase was needed to bring meal costs closer to the rate of reimbursement, Superintendent Mike Jones explained. The National School Lunch program provides free or reduced-price lunches for students who meet certain income eligibility requirements. Schools are reimbursed for the cost of providing these meals to students.

Current reimbursement rates for breakfast is $1.58, and for lunch it is $2.95, Jones said. Last year’s student meal prices at Chico ISD were $1 for breakfast at all campuses, $2 for elementary lunch and $2.75 for middle school and high school lunch.

Jones recommended an all-campus breakfast increase to $1.30 and elementary lunch increase to $2.50.

“We need to go up on our breakfast prices,” Jones said. “I know we normally try to go up incrementally – 10 cents, 15 cents – but we’re so far behind, I’d recommend we go up to $1.30 for all three campuses for breakfast.”

Jones added that he understood that increases in both breakfast and lunch could create a bit of a financial burden for some.

“I’d like to get to $2.50 at the elementary this year, but that’s an 80-cent increase for someone who has an elementary kid who eats breakfast and lunch,” he said. “Some folks can afford it, and some folks it’s going to be a hit in their pocketbook.”

Board members suggested the prices should be set even higher.

“If they stop at the donut shop or the Chico Mart, it’s going to cost more than that,” board President Bill Hand said. ” … I think breakfast ought to be $1.50, and lunch prices ought to be $3.”

By setting those prices above the rate of reimbursement, Jones said it would keep the school district from having to dip into its own funds so much to make up the cost of providing meals. He pointed out that the numbers have been “artificially low” after several years with no price increase.

After a brief discussion, the board voted 5-0 to set student meal prices at $1.50 for breakfast and $3 for lunch at all campuses. Meal prices for staff were set at $2 for breakfast and $3.50 for lunch. Board members Paul Cantrell and Donald Joe Clark were not in attendance.

In other meal-related business, the board approved spending $15,645 for a steamer for the middle school kitchen. The board also made a related $25,000 budget amendment to cover the cost and installation of the steamer and other cafeteria upgrades related to the new meal program beginning this fall. At last month’s meeting, the board approved a contract with Walker Quality Services to provide cafeteria management services for the 2014-2015 school year. The service is expected to provide higher quality meals and more food choices for students.

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