Region 16 raises lunch prices

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School-lunch
REGION 16 — Lunches will cost 25 cents more in Region 16 when school starts in the fall.

The Board of Education approved the increase in lunch prices for the region, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, at its June 26 meeting. The increase brings regular lunch prices to $2.50 at the elementary schools, $2.75 at Long River Middle School and $3 at Woodland Regional High School.

Business Manager Pamela Mangini told the board the increase was recommended to comply with the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and to help turnaround a net loss in the program.

Mangini explained a provision in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires school districts to use a formula to determine school lunch prices to ensure federal reimbursements for free and reduced lunch students aren’t being used to subsidize regular meal prices. She said the 25-cent increase will cover the district for the next five years under the act.

Mangini added the lunch program is expected to have a net loss of $40,000 for the past school year based on preliminary figures. The loss will be covered by the program’s reserves, she said, and the increase could bring in up to $60,000 in additional revenue for the program.

School Nutrition Program Director Victoria Biello said participation in the lunch program dropped at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. She cited new federal requirements that governed the maximum amount of food that could be given to students and the state of the economy for the drop in participation.

Many students were upset over the new federal requirements because they weren’t getting enough food, Biello said. The requirements drew national attention as students across the country protested and eventually the maximums were lifted.

Biello said once the maximums were lifted it was difficult to get students back to buying lunch.

“Once we lose students at the beginning of the year it’s hard to get these customers back,” she said.

The last time the district raised lunch prices was a 25-cent increase two years ago, Biello said.

Region 16 remains similar to area school districts after the increase as far as lunch prices are concerned.

Biello and Mangini pointed to several area districts including the Wolcott school system, which charges $2.15 at the elementary level, $2.65 for middle school students and $2.90 at its high school, and Region 14, which charges $2.90 at the elementary level and $3.10 at the middle and high school level.

The board approved the increase with Chair Priscilla Cretella and Vice Chair Donna Cullen voting against it.

Cullen said she was concerned that if the down economy played a role in the decreased participation raising the prices won’t help.

Cretella said see would rather see the board put more money into the program than raise prices.