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Lucia Mar increases the cost of its meals 

Lucia Mar Unified School District students will see an increased price for school lunch and breakfast next academic school year.

On April 9, the school board unanimously approved increasing the cost of breakfast by 50 cents, raising the price from $1.50 to $2.

click to enlarge CLEAN EATING There are many variables that led to the increased cost of school-provided lunches at Lucia Mar School District, but it started with the need to meet the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • CLEAN EATING There are many variables that led to the increased cost of school-provided lunches at Lucia Mar School District, but it started with the need to meet the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

Lunch will increase by 25 cents—elementary school lunch will go from $2.50 to $2.75, middle school will increase from $2.75 to $3, and high school will increase from $3 to $3.25. Students who participate in the free and reduced lunch programs will not be affected by the proposal.

Jim Empey, an assistant superintendent, said the food services department's goals remain the same, which is to provide locally sourced, freshly prepared, highly nutritious, and quality food.

The district has done this by partnering with local farms and producers, including Mallard Lake Ranch, Green Gold Organic Farms, and Edna's Bakery.

When the proposal to increase the cost of school-provided meals was first introduced to the board on Jan. 22, Laurel Goins, director of food services, said an increase in labor costs and the need to repair and replace equipment is increasing the department's costs.

Additionally, Empey said the larger challenge is that not many students aren't paying for school-provided meals.

"The biggest hit is food carts, or our a la cart items, and in addition to that, we have less students that are qualified for free and reduced meals," he said.

According to a staff report, the food services program has operated for more than a decade without requiring a financial contribution to date; however, the program has been operating at a funding deficit since the 2012-13 fiscal year (except for the 2015-16 fiscal year).

Empey attributes the deficit pattern to food selection and cost, participation rates, and the rising costs of operations and supplies that have outpaced revenue and labor costs. The cost increase is also needed to meet the requirements of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act that was signed to legislation in 2010. According to the Let's Move website, in order to fit the standard, school-provided meals should have more grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat dairy products; and less sodium and fat.

The projected ending 2018-19 fund balance for the food services department is roughly $26,000, the staff report states. This balance and the nearly $228,000 annual deficit trend led to the meal rate increases. Δ

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