By Max Bowenfirstname.lastname@example.org
As federal support for school meals has come to a close, North Attleborough will need to increase its prices to keep the program self-sustaining.
At the June 15 School Committee meeting, Assistant Superintendent Catherine Blake provided information compiled by School Nutrition Director Heather Baril, who was unable to attend. Blake said that since March 2020, the district has tracked the meals served and received reimbursement through the federal government, but this will end on June 30.
While the state legislature is exploring a continuation of this, Blake and Baril has reviewed the prices and determined that an increase is needed to avoid using funds from other line items in the budget.
“We want to make sure we can maintain a self-sustained program and not fund it though the budget,” said Blake.
The Paid Lunch Equity provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires School Food Authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide the same level of support for lunches served to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunches (i.e. paid lunches) as they are for lunches served to students eligible for free lunches.
The proposed price increases for lunches would be $2.5o at the Early Learning Center, $3 for elementary students, $3.50 for middle school, and $3.75 for high school. Staff lunches would also increase to $4.75. The increase ranges from 50-90 cents.
Breakfasts would be $1.50 at the Early Learning Center, $2 for elementary and middle school students, and $2.50 at the high school. Adult and staff meals would be $2.75. Reduced meal prices—30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch—would not be affected.
The committee voted unanimously to approve the increases. This will be the first increase to meal prices since 2018.
Blake said that prior to the federal reimbursement, the meals program ran in a deficit. The reimbursement actually paid the schools more than the cost of the meals, allowing for some equipment purchases for the kitchens. She recommended keeping three months of funding set aside for unexpected costs.
Committee member James McKenna said that it may make more sense to wait until August to see what the state does. Superintendent John Antonucci said this was an option and that if the state was able to mimic the federal program, any price increases would be deferred.
“Our program is not sustainable in its current form,” said Antonucci. “Once that money runs dry, we need to make our program self-operating.”