When Batavia school students pay more for their lunches this fall, they can thank the federal government.
District 101 is raising prices, for the second time in less than a year, to meet a mandate of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Lunches will cost $2.68 at the high school, and $2.38 at the elementary and middle schools. That's a 3 to 3.4 percent increase.
"It just seems strange," board member Jon Gaspar said, at a finance committee meeting Tuesday afternoon. He and board member Melanie Impastato noted the district had just raised prices 10 cents per meal in December, for the same reason.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act revised the nutrition requirements for food served at schools in the USDA's National School Lunch Program. School district officials said serving more nutritious, less processed food would cost more money, so the government increased the amount of reimbursement. It is 28 cents for full-price lunches, $2.52 for reduced-price lunches, and $2.93 for free lunches in Batavia, according to Lindsay Jannotta, the district's assistant finance director.
The stated purpose of lunch equity is to make sure school districts have enough money to offer good lunches to paying students. Before the paid-lunch-equity rule was enacted, the Batavia school district was using any difference between the reimbursement and its paid lunch fee to help support overall costs of school lunch, including paying for lunchroom aides and equipment. Kris Monn, the district's business services superintendent, said the equity program makes sure the district isn't subsidizing the cost for families who can afford to pay with money from the federal program intended to feed low-income children.
The USDA has a formula to determine what it thinks school districts should charge for lunches, and gives them three years to meet that target. The federal government thinks lunches in Batavia should cost an average of $2.65.
"I get the intent of it (paid lunch equity), even though it does seem like we are increasing it year after year," said Kris Monn, the district's business services superintendent. He also said districts in the federal lunch program are prohibited from making a profit on lunch.
The National School Lunch Program was established in 1946. During the Depression a federal school lunch program started to both help poor children and to use surplus commodities the government was buying to support commodity prices, and some of the foods used today are purchased through a USDA commodities program.
The Geneva school district does not participate in the program. The West Aurora school district does, but will not be increasing its prices, said Angie Smith, the district's assistant superintendent of operations.