Increase set for students’ lunch price

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. students and staff will pay more for school lunches starting this fall.

Prices will go up 10 cents per meal, with prices at $2.45 for elementary, $2.55 for secondary and $3.10 for adult. Secondary breakfast will stay at $1.25, and adult breakfast will stay at $1.85.

Food service director Nancy Millspaugh said that, during the past five years, the school corporation has been making the meals healthier, causing costs to increase.

Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, schools are mandated to raise the price of lunches if they are below $2.70 for elementary and secondary grades, Millspaugh said.

The legislation sets policy and enables funding for two of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s core child-nutrition programs, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, both of which BCSC participates in.

Increases are capped at 10 cents per year, however. Elementary and secondary grade lunches have increased 30 cents each since the 2010-11 school year.

Prices set for fall will represent a fourth-straight year of 10-cent increases.

As a part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, school lunch programs across the country are required to provide meals with healthier options, but Millspaugh said the Columbus-based district has been ahead of the curve on that trend.

“For about 10 years, our schools have been offering fresh produce and more locally grown produce,” Millspaugh said. “We have been trying to lower sodium ahead of time, compared to the new federal regulations that went into effect this year.”

The new regulations required lunches to feature a fruit or vegetable with each meal, and schools must offer all whole-grain options, Millspaugh said. In addition, she said anything that is breaded must be whole grain, and that includes all meat products.

Included in the regulations are a requirement for fat-free and low-fat milk, something that Millspaugh said the district has been doing for the past 10 years.

Superintendent John Quick said as the school district has adapted, food preparation has eliminated deep fryers in the kitchen and provided healthier meal options for students.

“It’s important to have choices for the kids,” Quick said. “We have a salad bar, and we’ve featured a higher-quality food selection as we have updated our options throughout the years.”

There are also new calorie, fat and sodium restrictions on all foods.

Millspaugh said that while the district meal program has been reducing sodium intake across the board, new regulations deal with how food is processed.

All food offered on all local school campuses must meet the health guidelines.

Millspaugh said it costs $4.37 to produce a school lunch, and that pricing has increased significantly since 2005 when it cost $2.22 to produce.

In 2011, the cost to produce a healthy lunch jumped to $2.71, in 2012 the cost was $2.75, and in 2013 it was $3.29. Millspaugh said labor isn’t rising significantly, but the food cost is. She said her balance in reserve is in the black, but it is dwindling. School lunch is supposed to have three months in reserve for emergencies, and right now it doesn’t have that.

She said last year the food service department budget ended with a $3,000 shortfall, and a larger shortfall is expected this year.

At a glance

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. costs to prepare school lunches

2011: $2.71

2012: $2.75

2013: $3.29

2014: $4.37

Students are charged far less than the cost to make the lunches.