The price of school lunch is going up. The Humble ISD Board of Trustees voted June 13 to increase lunch prices for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year. Lunch prices will be raised 5 to 15 cents per meal to comply with federal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations.
As a result, lunch prices for the upcoming school year will be $2.25 for elementary schools (a 5-cent increase), $2.65 for middle and high school regular lunches (a 15-cent increase), $2.85 for middle school sub sandwich lunches (a 10-cent increase), and $3.10 for high school sub sandwich lunches (a 10-cent increase). Breakfast prices remain unchanged: $1.40 for elementary and $1.50 for middle and high school.
12,000 need free, reduced meals
As a district, Humble ISD is 33.9 percent economically disadvantaged and, as such, participates in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs administered by the USDA. The program provides nutritionally balanced meals at reduced prices or at no cost to qualifying children. In Humble ISD, more than 12,000 students qualify for free meals, with an additional 1,500 students who qualify for reduced-price meals, amounting to one in every three students. Reduced-priced breakfasts cost 30 cents, while lunches cost 40 cents. These prices remain unchanged for the upcoming school year. Eligibility requirements are online at humbleisd.net, but in general, families earning less than $75,000 will qualify.
The national school lunch program was originally established in 1946 by President Truman. The 2010 passing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act did several things to expand the original program.
First, it increased the federal per-meal reimbursement to schools who administer the free and reduced meal program for the first time in 15 years.
Second, new nutrition standards were developed and the USDA was given $4.5 billion to implement the standards. Schools must meet those requirements in order to receive the reimbursement. Examples of the new standards are: reduced portions, availability of only nonfat or one percent milk, mandating that a meal contain fruit, vegetable, and whole grain servings, and mandating a maximum sugar, fat and sodium content.
Third, the law has a provision called the Paid Lunch Equity program that requires districts to gradually increase lunch prices for customers who pay full price, so that the revenue generated equals the amount reimbursed by the federal government to run the free lunch program. For the 2017-2018 school year, the weighted USDA average lunch price is $2.86. Because Humble ISD’s average price was less than $2.86, the district was required to increase their prices.
One in three students in Humble ISD qualify for help.
The increase amounts to roughly $25 per student for the year. Certainly, many students bring their own lunches, but assuming that the remaining two-thirds of students buy lunch at school, the price increase could theoretically bring the district as much as $670,000 in increased revenue.
The law also gave the USDA the authority to set nutrition standards for all food products sold on school campuses during the day, and gave the USDA both the authority and the funding to test new ways of increasing program participation. Since 2010, the certification process has been greatly simplified and is much more direct. The program has also been expanded to include children in the foster care system.
The USDA provides Humble ISD with approximately $9 million per year to provide free and reduced-price meals. Humble ISD cafeterias serve nearly 60,000 meals daily and over 10 million meals annually to students, staff and guests.
This year, the 2017-18 form to apply for free and reduced-price meals is online only. Parents and guardians are advised to set up a free School Café account (schoolcafe.com) in order to apply. Applications opened July 1 and the district encourages parents to sign up now rather than waiting until school starts.
Child Nutrition Department personnel just returned from the School Nutrition Association’s annual conference, known as the “School Nutrition Event of the Year.” The Atlanta conference featured more than 6,000 attendees and over 850 vendor booths showcasing new food products and other innovations.
“We anticipate adding new items during the school year as we have just returned from the national food show and are requesting a variety of additional new items,” said Humble ISD Child Nutrition Director Shirley Parker.
Some of the new items already added to the menu include Cheerios and Frosted Mini Wheats, whole grain cornbread, a turkey bacon and egg breakfast stick, breakfast yogurt, fruit parfaits, seasoned spiral fries and jalapeno and chorizo pizza. New desserts include Hershey’s brownie batter ice cream sandwich, salted caramel brownie ice cream bars, fruit bars and frosted, whole-grain cookies. Domino’s pizza will be delivered to the middle and high schools.
The child nutrition department does not operate vending machines. Some of the schools do have vending machines, but they must follow the USDA Smart Snacks in School guidelines by including choices like bottled water or 100 percent fruit juices. High schools are allowed to carry diet soda.
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