Lunch prices at Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. schools will increase 5 cents per meal next school year for students not enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program.
Federal law requires the district to gradually match a national average price of $2.78, said Nancy Millspaugh, BCSC director of food services. School districts which fall below this level must increase lunch prices by no more than 10 cents per school year.
This is the first year since 2012 that the Columbus-based school district has not raised prices by the full 10 cents allowed. The five-cent increase was approved during Monday’s BCSC school board meeting.
With current prices set at $2.45 for elementary and $2.55 for middle and high school students, it will be a few years before local prices hit the national average, Millspaugh said.
Starting next school year, parents will see an increase to $2.50 for younger students and $2.60 for older ones.
The federal law is designed to ensure all school lunch programs remain solvent, Millspaugh said.
This isn’t a problem for BCSC, even through the school district operates at a loss on each meal it serves, she said.
Each lunch costs the district about $3.65 to produce. So even at $2.60, the district will not be making money on school lunches.
Based on current enrollment, the district spends about $7,300 per day more on paid lunches than it realizes in fees.
The goal of the school lunch program is to offer affordable lunches, not to make money, Millspaugh said.
“We don’t want to pass along costs to parents when we don’t need to,” said Millspaugh, who indicated that the district is in no danger of running out of funds.
The district could have chosen to increase the price for next year by as little as a penny, but decided to proceed with caution, she said.
Millspaugh said several recent vendor changes have likely lowered the school’s lunch costs by a few cents per meal this school year.
Districtwide, 44 percent of students participate in either the free or reduced lunch programs. However, daily lunch prices for these students are subsidized and set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and there will be no changes in reduced-lunch prices for next year.
Lunch prices for other districts in the region range from $2.15 for elementary school students at Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. to $2.85 for high school students in the Monroe County Community School Corp.
All school districts which fall below the $2.78 national average are making similar adjustments, Millspaugh said.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. lunch prices by school year
School lunch price comparisons around the region for 2015-16.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.
Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp.
Brown County School Corp.
Seymour Community Schools
Monroe County Community School Corp.