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September 20, 2014

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Board OKs hike in school lunch prices

Image

Christopher DeVargas

Matt Kelly Elementary School lunch on Monday, May 21, 2012.

The Clark County School Board approved a school lunch price increase of 15 cents, or about $27 annually, on Thursday.

The issue: School lunch prices nationally are rising each year until 2017 to comply with a new federal requirement.

The vote: Unanimous 7-0.

The impact: Elementary school lunch prices are going up from $1.85 to $2 per meal. Middle and high school lunch prices are going up from $3.10 to $3.25 per meal.

This is the second school lunch price increase since the board approved a 10-cent increase last year.

School districts across the nation are raising lunch prices over a five-year period to comply with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

The federal law increases the nutritional value requirements of school meals, but also prohibits districts participating in the National School Lunch Program from using federal dollars to subsidize students who don't receive free or reduced-price lunches.

The School District’s food purchases are subsidized through the National School Lunch Program at $2.59 per school meal. A new federal requirement does not allow school districts to charge less than that — to avoid subsidizing paying students.

The new law mandates that school districts charging less than $2.59 pay for the balance by dipping into its general fund. However, the School District doesn’t have the $483,351 needed to bridge the food budget gap caused by the new federal mandates.

These increases are expected to continue for another three years.

By 2017, a family with an elementary school child who eats a school lunch every day would pay $405 per year. Families with students in upper grades who eats a school lunch every day would pay $630 per year.

The district’s Food Service Department feeds 225,000 of the district’s 311,000 schoolchildren every day of the school year, according to Charles Anderson, the district's director of food services.

About 60 percent — or 186,000 students — qualify for free or reduced-priced lunches. That number has increased by 24,000 students from last year.

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