Polk school lunch prices to be higher in 2011-2012

Published 9:09 am Thursday, June 30, 2011

Per a federal mandate, Polk County Board of Education members voted to increase lunch prices next year.
Superintendent Bill Miller said boards across the country are now faced with hiking lunch prices to equalize the variance between what the school charges for lunch and what the government reimburses across the board for students on the free lunch program.
“What the feds are saying is, ‘You have to address this,’” Miller said. “Every year we’re going to have to come back and look at this [our lunch prices]. We’re going to be on this train until someone decides this [our pricing] is back in line.”
The minimum amount boards could increase prices by was $.05, while the maximum they could increase prices by was $.10.
Polk County BOE members chose to increase the cost of lunch for preK-fifth grade students from $2 to $2.10. Students in sixth-12th grade will see only a 5-cent increase. Those students paid $2.25 last year, but will pay $2.30 beginning in August.
“We’re trying to close a wider gap in K-5 prices than in sixth-12th,” said board chairman Geoffrey Tennant.
Lunch prices for elementary-aged students will increase by a larger margin because the disparity from the national average is greater than the disparity at the middle and high school levels.
The federal lunch reimbursement program currently refunds Polk County $2.74 per day per student eligible for the program. This means the local system receives 46 cents more than the national average for preK-fifth grade students and 21 cents more for sixth-12th grade students. Polk County receives more because of the number of students in the area that qualify.
Miller said he has heard claims the federal government could require systems to fully close the gap within three years.  He said this could be difficult with a variable like inflation – higher gas prices, food costs, etc. – affecting school lunch prices.
One benefit to the local school system is a small increase in revenue from lunches. Polk County schools sold 68,100 lunches last year to students not on the free or reduced lunch programs. Adding 10 cents to all those lunches would have netted the school $6,810 on the year.

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