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Friday, August 27, 2010

Free and reduced-price school lunch

Question: Just wondering why "reduced lunches" never seem to increase in price, but yet the normal lunch cost for students increases every year by at least 10 cents? What exactly is the purpose for reduced lunches anyhow? I would imagine that most, if not all, eligible for reduced (or free?!) lunches qualify for food stamps - so why not force the parents to take the time to prepare their children's lunches at least several times per week? I would like to see "reduced lunches" minimized to a certain number of eligible lunches during the school year, perhaps 50-60 total lunches. Maybe the cost of lunches for those that pay full price could be reduced if there weren't so many getting it reduced on a daily basis. Seems that those who work hard for their money never catch a break, whereas those that get help are always getting something for free!

Answer: The first thing you should know is that the free and reduced-price school meals program is a federal program, so a lot of the ideas you have regarding change can't be addressed by the district under the current legislation.

For the 2010-11 school year, the cost of our regular lunch is $2 in the elementary schools and $2.35 in the middle and high school. When we increase the prices of our school meals, it's because the cost of food went up.

Our program, like most school lunch programs, runs in the red, even though the program is subsidized by state and federal funds. The school district actually gets a higher state and federal reimbursement on meals served to students who are part of the free and reduced-price school lunch program than on those who pay full price, which is why the district conducts a drive every year to enroll eligible families. Here's how the reimbursements break down:
  • For every free lunch served, B-P gets a total reimbursement of $2.78.
  • For every reduced-price lunch served, B-P is reimbursed $2.52; add on the 25 cents that the student pays, and B-P's total reimbursement is $2.77.
  • For every full-price lunch served, B-P is reimbursed 32 cents; add on the $2.35 that high school students pay, and B-P's total reimbursement is $2.67. The total reimbursement for each full-price lunch served in the elementary schools is $2.32.
The federal and state reimbursements are based on data from the Consumer Price Index that reflect the typical cost to a school district to serve a lunch.

Federal law mandates that school districts charge no more than 40 cents for a reduced-price lunch. Broadalbin-Perth charges 25 cents so that the total reimbursement for a reduced-price lunch comes out about the same as a free lunch ($2.77 versus $2.78).

So, as you can see, it actually benefits the school district to find all families who are eligible for the free and reduced-price school meals program and get them signed up.
- answered by Marco Zumbolo, School Business Administrator

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