Higher school lunch prices likely for Unionville

Changes to federal school lunch standards mean schools will have to raise minimum prices

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com

Filling lunch trays, like this one, at Unionville-Chadds Ford Schools is expected to cost an additional 25 cents in the 2011-12 school year. The plus side: the lunches will feature more fresh fruit and vegitables and whole grains.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — If there’s no such thing as a free lunch, the era of cheap school lunches might be passing, too, but it may mean healthier kids in the long run.

The Board of Education is expected to approve next Monday a hike in the cost of school lunches of 25 cents, in anticipation of new federal laws regarding school lunch content and pricing. A new federal “healthy eating” initiative will require a minimum price of $2.46 for school lunches by the 2012-13 school year.

The price hike is being mandated to make school district increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods served — all of which are more expensive than much of the fare sold in schools around the country these days, according to Marie Wickersham, the Director of Food Service for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District.

This year’s proposed hike, she said, from $2.00 to $2.25 for elementary students and from $2.25 to $2.50 for secondary students is expected to be the first of two such hikes, with a second the following year to comply with the federal standard. The older students higher prices reflect larger portion sizes, Wickersham said.

“We have a couple of years to get there,” she said, “but this starts the process.”

As a federal mandate, the district has little choice but to comply: Superintendent of Schools Sharon Parker noted that failure to do so would likely mean loss of federal funding and other potential sanctions.

Wickersham noted that the lunch program still provides an excellent value and that her department should have little trouble complying with the new regulations.

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