School lunch prices rise again, slightly
As children throughout the region hop on the school bus Tuesday, most parents should be ready to hand off a little more lunch money.
Over the past few years, school lunch prices have increased because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires public schools to improve the nutritional value of the meals.
The higher cost of serving fresh fruits and vegetables required by federal healthy eating regulations account for most the price increases.
Here’s how area school divisions are dealing with the changes:
KING GEORGE COUNTY
In King George, the cost for a full-price lunch at the county’s elementary schools increased by 15 cents to $2.40. The high school and middle school lunch prices remain the same this year at $2.50. The cost is also the same for students eligible for reduced-price lunch at 40 cents per meal at all schools.
Last year, King George schools faced a 25-cent increase to move toward meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.
Prior to those increases, lunch prices were typically raised by 5 cents annually or not at all, said Anita Davis, food service coordinator.
School lunch prices should actually be $2.75 per meal at all of the schools, as determined by a federal meal pricing calculator, she said.
Schools Superintendent Robert Benson said that while new regulations may bump the cost, the King George lunch program offers meals that maximize nutritional value and taste good to students.
“I believe our school lunch program does an excellent job teaching students how to choose healthy foods and develop healthy eating habits,” he said.
Davis said students love the fresh fruit and vegetable options, which have included kiwi, pears, Granny Smith apples and grilled squash.
“It’s expensive, but if it’s going to become brain food, why not?” Davis said. “You just have to take the bitter with the sweet.”
Not all school lunch prices are going up.
City schools are participating in a federal program, which provides free breakfasts and lunches for all students at Original Walker–Grant School and Hugh Mercer Elementary. It’s available to schools that have more than 40 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
Lafayette Upper Elementary, Walker–Grant Middle and James Monroe High School do not qualify for the program.
At Lafayette Upper Elementary, the price of lunch is rising from $2.35 to $2.45, at Walker–Grant from $2.15 to $2.55 and at James Monroe from $2.50 to $2.60 per lunch. Breakfast prices are the same.
In Stafford, lunch prices have increased by an average of 25 cents per meal over the past two years.
Lunch prices this year are $2.50 for the elementary schools, $2.60 for the middle schools and $2.70 for the high schools. The reduced lunch price is still 40 cents.
Breakfast at all schools now costs $1.45, a 15-cent increase from last year.
Stafford will also be implementing the federal “Smart Snack” guidelines to ensure the nutritional value of the food and beverages sold to students not included with breakfast and lunch.
“The target and objective of the meal pattern changes as well as implementation of the Smart Snack guidelines is to reduce childhood obesity,” said Chapman Slye, director of Stafford school nutrition. “We’re doing our part.”
Spotsylvania school lunch prices will remain the same this year. Last fall, the division increased lunch prices by 10 cents. Lunch is $2.55 for elementary schoolers and $2.65 for middle and high school students.
This past school year, the division had 6,724 students who receive free meals
and another 1,477 students who receive meals at a reduced price.
The division will offer various programs to help students and parents improve their diets.
Middle school student ambassador Chef Remmi will provide healthy recipe videos. There are also interactive computer games to promote healthy eating for elementary students.
Lunch prices in Caroline schools will rise from $2.20 for elementary school students to $2.35 and $2.45 for middle and high school students to $2.60 each.
The division uses a “smart snack” calculator to make sure all of the à la carte lunch items qualify under the stricter USDA regulations.
Parents and students may go online to view school menus, which will provide all the nutritional information for the food served, said Ellen Stephens, the school nutrition program coordinator.
“The school nurses have found this to be an invaluable tool to help diabetic students count carbs and to check for allergen information,” she said.
Orange school lunch prices increased 10 cents over last year, to $2.35 for elementary students and $2.60 for secondary students. Breakfast prices rose 5 cents, to $1.20 for elementary and $1.45 for secondary.
Reduced-price meals remained the same as last year at 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.
Culpeper school lunch prices will increase by 10 cents in both elementary and secondary schools.
Lunch prices are now $2.30 in elementary cafeterias and $2.60 for middle and high school students.
Reduced price meals will remain the same—30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.
Colonial Beach schools increased lunch prices by 10 cents this year from $2.50 to $2.60.
Next year, they will increase the lunch price 5 cents to reach the USDA’s $2.65 target, said said Sharon Dunavant, cafeteria manager and food service director.
Regina Weiss 540/374-5444