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updated: 6/20/2011 3:49 PM

Cost of lunch to go up in District 158

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The price of a school lunch in Huntley Area District 158 will increase modestly in the fall to meet a federal mandate on the cost of a paid lunch.

The school board voted 5-2 last week to raise the cost of full-price school lunches 20 cents to $2.20, beginning July 1.

The increase, which affects only students who pay full price for lunch, is needed to meet the criteria of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The act requires schools participating in the National School Lunch program to match the current federal reimbursement rate of $2.46 per meal for free lunches within three years.

District finance officer Mark Altmayer said that rate likely will increase in the next three years based on inflation.

About 70 percent of the 8,769 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade eat a school lunch, said Cheryl Lawrence, director of food services. Of those 6,138 students, about 57 percent buy their lunch at full price.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pays the school district $2.72 for each student who qualifies for a free lunch. And it reimburses the district 26 cents for each lunch a student purchases.

The district is expected to make up the $2.46 difference between the two amounts.

The changes in District 158 will include the base price of $2.20 for meals that the federal government deems balanced and higher prices for more expensive selections up to $2.50, Lawrence said.

The tiered pricing prompted school board member Kevin Gentry to vote against the increase.

"I wanted to charge the same price for a meal across the board," Gentry said.

The school board will revisit another rate increase next school year, Gentry said.

"It is a law giving us the green light to increase lunch prices even more," Gentry said. "But we wanted to take small steps because we originally didn't plan for an increase. We were going into the year holding registration fees flat and lunch fees were flat, too."