School food price hike proposed

Breakfast, lunch increases would cost some parents $2.50 more a week

Heather R. Breaux
April 01, 2009 at 10:59 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

If you’re a parent, then it’s probably safe to say that your child’s nutrition is important to you. But if your child is a St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ student, then making sure your kid is getting the proper nutrients each day could cost you more.

A financial update to school board members in March by Child Nutrition Director Cynthia Ruffin proposed breakfast and lunch price increases for the 2009-10 school year, with the brunt of the increase felt at elementary levels.

“In preparing for next year’s budget, I’ve determined that while meal payments have increased slightly, we’re still facing inflation costs,” Ruffin said. “It’s been two years since our last report and now we’re trying to figure out a way to balance both our costs and revenue.”

Elementary school students are currently charged 70 cents per meal for breakfast and $1.15 per meal for lunch.
If Ruffin’s proposal is approved, the cost of breakfast would increase by 30 cents to $1, and lunch would rise from $1.15 to $1.35, a difference of 20 cents.

Middle and high school student lunches would both increase by 20 cents from $1.35 to $1.55 and from $1.50 to $1.75, respectfully. Both middle and high school breakfast prices would rise 20 cents from 90 cents to $1.10.

School employees would also have to start paying more to eat on campus. A 55-cent increase would have teachers paying $1.50 for breakfast, up from 95 cents. An 85-cent increase would require employees to pay $2.85 for lunch.

Ruffin points out that the department’s fund balance had remained consistent for four years prior to the 2007-08 school year, but the fund balance decreased by more than $360,000 last school year. According to Ruffin, that’s more than the revenue that will be earned from the price increases.

“There are several challenges that we need to overcome,” she said. “There have been increased food, supply and repair costs in addition to lower school enrollment and revenue losses during hurricane season.”

According to department documents, for every day the schools are closed due to inclement weather, the Child Nutrition Department losses $22,000. Last year alone, the department lost out on $132,000 in meal payments when the parish was under a mandatory evacuation for Hurricane Gustav.

“Our figures reflect meal payments for both school-aged children and the parish’s Head Start program,” added Ruffin. “We also cater snacks for the after-school program.”

The proposed increase would not affect the district’s free and reduced lunch programs.

“Currently, 77 percent of students participate in the lunch program and 35 percent eat breakfast with us each day,” Ruffin said. “Students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch and breakfast is at 52 percent. The additional increase in meal prices would give us approximately $225,381 in our fund balance.”

The board will vote on the price increase during the 2009-10 budget hearing.

View other articles written Heather R. Breaux

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Parish distributes over 250 Thanksgiving baskets to needy
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