Friday, June 22, 2001

Schools plan
lunch price hike

Hawaii students will see
a 25-cent increase in the
cost of lunches

By Crystal Kua

About 90,000 Hawaii students will have to pay 33 percent more to eat lunch at school starting July 1, when the state increases the price to $1 from 75 cents.

The increase affects about 60 percent of the 150,000 students who participate in the Department of Education's school lunch program. The hike, however, will not affect the 20-cent cost of a reduced-priced lunch and breakfast for low-income students. The 35-cent full price for a student breakfast also will not change.

The last time the cost of school lunch went up was in 1993.

"At $1, we suggest, it's still the best meal deal in the state," Superintendent Paul LeMahieu told the Board of Education yesterday. "You're still well below the actual cost."

But the current president of the Hawaii State Parent Teachers Students Association said that while the cost is reasonable, parents will still feel the pinch of paying more for their children to receive a meal in school.

"It will have a definite impact," John Friedman said by telephone from Baltimore. "The added burden will definitely be felt by middle class parents."

Friedman said a family with five children in the public schools could end up paying $100 a month for school lunch.

Friedman, who is attending the national PTA convention on the mainland, said one of the first initiatives of the national organization was to ensure students had a nutritious hot meal in their stomachs.

"I hope those students that are not wealthy but who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches, we hope that they will not be forced to go without," Friedman said.

Miki Crisp, whose two daughters attend public school, said, she is not shocked or surprised by the price increase.

"I think it's a good deal for parents," said Crisp, a parent facilitator at Makalapa Elementary School. Crisp's 17-year-daughter, Ashley, attends Radford High School and her 14-year-old daughter will be attending Moanalua High School.

"It's still reasonable," she said. Making home lunch would cost more than giving them a $1 for school lunch, she added.

A new law that goes into effect in July sets the price of school lunches by formula instead of by amount.

The law would set the price of school lunches at up to one-third the actual cost of preparing the meals, rounded to the nearest 25 cents.

The maximum cost of a school lunch is currently set by law at $1. The average cost of preparing lunch is now at $2.68 per student, so the formula in the new law would allow the department to set the price of lunch also up to $1.

While federal funds subsidize free and reduced lunches, state funds along with the student payment generally pay most of the cost of preparing lunches.

Adult breakfast and lunch will also remain unchanged.

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