Schools take bigger bite

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First-graders Cheney Yao, left, and Haylee Silva stand in line for lunch at Banfield Elementary School Monday. — Trey Mewes/

Board increases lunch costs to meet national requirements

Though the Austin Public School board raised lunch prices this year, it will have to do it next year, and the year after that.

The board increased elementary, middle and high school lunch prices by 10 cents to comply with new federal standards. Under the National School Lunch Program guidelines, districts that charge less than $2.51 per lunch are required to raise prices at least 4.18 percent, which in Austin’s case comes to about 8.8 cents per lunch.

“We really are required to raise it a dime a year,” said Mary Weikum, director of food and nutrition.

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The new prices would mean elementary lunches are priced at $2 per student, whereas Ellis Middle School and Austin High School lunches are $2.20 per student. Breakfast prices will remain the same.

Weikum said the public can expect lunch prices to raise for the next several years until the district complies with federal mandates under the Healthy Kids Act. Other mandates include putting more whole grains, and more fruits and vegetables in school lunches. Weikum said the district has made gradual changes to its menu to keep in line with federal guidelines under the current mandate deadlines.

Last year, Austin was ranked in the middle of all Big 9 schools in comparing lunch prices. That comparison won’t hold much weight soon, as all schools are expected to charge above $2.51 for lunch in coming years.

This is the second year Austin has raised lunch prices. Elementary lunch was at $1.80 in 2010 and $1.90 in 2011, while middle and high school lunches were at $2 in 2010 and $2.10 in 2011. The district raised breakfast prices by 5 cents last year.