Region 16 school board approves higher lunch prices

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PROSPECT — The Region 16 Board of Education approved a 25 cent increase in lunch prices across the board for the 2011-12 school year.

Beginning next school year, lunches will cost $2 for elementary school students, $2.25 for middle school students and $2.50 for high school students.

The increase is the first raise in lunch prizes in six years Region 16 Director of Food Services Victoria Biello explained to the board during its June 22 meeting.

Biello said she didn’t want to increase lunch prices, but costs related to food service are rising.

“We want to continue to give (students) quality food and that does cost money,” Biello said.

Biello said over recent years the cost for food rose 10 percent, while labor costs have gone up 14 percent.

The food service budget is separate from the overall school budget, and is intended to be self-sufficient. Over recent history, there hasn’t been an instance in which the board had to subsidize the food budget, and officials said, the food budget actually subsidized the school budget one year.

Along with rising food and labor costs, Biello said equipment needs to be replaced, including a walk-in freezer at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

Priscilla Cretella, vice chair of the board, was the only board member to vote against the increase. Cretella felt that the burden for replacing equipment shouldn’t fall on the backs of students who buy lunch.

Even with the increase, Biello said Region 16 lunch prices are below the state and national averages.