School lunch price hikes are possible


POSTED: Friday, May 22, 2009

The price for a public school lunch could jump to $2.10 in the next school year, up from $1.25, under a new law that requires the Department of Education to charge at least half the cost of the meal.





        Board of Education will discuss raising meal prices:

» When: 3 p.m. today


» Where: Queen Liliuokalani Building at 1390 Miller St., Room 404





        » Students pay: About 30 percent of the cost of preparing their lunches

» Cost to produce: $4.21


» Current price: $1.25 for students





        » Sets the price of school lunches and breakfasts at no less than half the cost to prepare them.




        Today's lunch menu at Pauoa School:

» Turkey ham on a whole-wheat bun


» Corn chowder


» Lettuce


» Orange wedges




The issue will be discussed this afternoon at a special Board of Education meeting where new rules on setting lunch and school bus fees are up for a vote.

The $1.25 price was set in 2007, at about one-third of what it cost to make the meal then. A law changing the formula to no less than half the cost of preparing meals was approved without opposition and signed by Gov. Linda Lingle on April 30. The new formula also applies to school breakfasts, now priced at 35 cents.

Superintendent Patricia Hamamoto supported the new law, saying it “;reduces the possibility that funds for food subsidies will need to be taken from other educational programs.”;

The rules up for a vote today do not actually set the price. They just allow the Department of Education to do so, with the board's approval, in accordance with the new law. The price will be set when the department determines the current cost of meals after the fiscal year ends and accounting is complete. The last accounting pegged lunch costs at $4.21 each.

Students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches because of low family income are not affected by the change in the law.

“;This does not impact those households,”; said Glenna Owens, director of school food services. “;I know that's everybody's concern because we probably have more households that would struggle these days. Those families who have had a decrease in work hours or job loss, we would encourage them when school starts to apply”; for subsidized meals.

Also at today's meeting, the board will vote on amending rules to allow school bus fares to increase from 35 cents to up to half the cost of transportation. The department now subsidizes 80 percent of the cost of transporting students, according to Aaron Kimura, student transportation services manager. Students pay $123.90 annually, round trip, while it costs the state roughly $600 per child.

“;I don't think the department is looking to increase it tremendously because they still want to help out with any kind of transportation hardship for students,”; Kimura said. The department is not required by law to provide transport, except for special-education and homeless students.

Proposed rule changes also increase the distance from school that secondary students must live to be eligible for bus service, from one mile to 1.5 miles. The distance will remain at one mile for elementary school students.

The board held meetings statewide last month to gather public opinion on the rule changes. The public may also offer testimony at today's meeting, which starts at 3 p.m. in Room 404 of the Queen Liliuokalani Building at 1390 Miller St.