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updated: 7/18/2011 11:06 PM

U-46 lunch prices may rise a dime a day

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Students who buy their lunch in Elgin Area District U-46 schools may need to scrounge around the couch for an extra dime a day beginning next semester.

The school board Monday discussed raising the price of school lunches 10 cents to comply with changes in federal regulations 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 for free lunches within three years.

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The raise will be voted on at the Aug. 1 board meeting.

Districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced-cost meals to students, must charge the equivalent of the reimbursable rate to students who pay for lunch, a memo from the district's Chief Operations Officer Jeff King said.

The new cost of lunch would be $2.50.

The current reimbursable rate for the lunch program is $2.74, while the district charges $2.40 for lunches across the district and is paid a federal reimbursement of 28 cents, for a total of $2.68. That means the district is 6 cents short of the mark.

The district is proposing a 10-cent hike to cover the difference, as well as the cost of purchasing rolled change for food service.

Since 2005, the price of lunch in the district has gone up about 90 cents. Administrators said the price increase has not historically affected the number of students who purchase their lunch.

Claudie Phillips, director of food and nutritional services in U-46, said the changes would take effect at the beginning of the new school year. The new prices would not affect breakfast meals, Phillips said. Those prices would remain at $1.25 for paid and 30 cents for reduced. Lunches are currently $2.40, 40 cents at the free and reduced prices.

"In order for the program to self-sustain, to cover the cost of meals, we need to increase the cost," Phillips said. "If we're not within the guidelines of the federal government, we have to increase the costs. The difference cannot be covered by federal funds."

Although figures on how many students purchase their lunch daily were not available Monday, Phillips said the district serves about 23,000 meals, 52 percent of which are free or reduced.

Phillips said figures for paid lunches depend on a number of criteria.

"It is based on enrollment, some lunches are paid for, some bring their own lunch and some don't eat at all," Phillips said.

The district is restricted to raising the price a maximum of 10 cents.

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