LISD lunchrooms raise prices
By LPR Staff
In response to the ever-increasing cost of feeding children healthy meals, the Lockhart Independent School District board of trustees opted to raise prices for meals in the Lockhart cafeterias.
Beginning when school starts in August, students will have to pay $1.20 for at-school breakfasts and an additional 15 cents for
lunches. This means that children in grades Pre-K through 5 will pay $1.65, while junior high and high school students will pay $1.90. Teacher lunches will increase to $2.45. The price for teacher breakfasts did not change.
Additionally, students receiving free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches will not see a difference in their meal prices. According to figures presented by Aramark, the school’s food-service contractor, the change will only affect around 525 students at the elementary level and 440 secondary students.
“We serve almost 4,700 meals each day,” said Hailey Ratliff, Aramark’s representative in LISD. “About 54 percent of our students are on a free or reduced-price program.”
Federal and state government funds subsidize the free and reduced-price meal programs, Ratliff said. All told, the governments value school lunches at $2.43, a price that includes a “commodity subsidy” for all students.
“We’re also an ‘extreme-needs’ district, so we get an extra stipend,” Ratliff said.
LISD Superintendent John Hall originally proposed a program calling for increases up to 50 cents per meal, an idea that was supported by other administrators, but met some opposition from the board.
“This money goes into the student nutrition fund,” said LISD Finance Director Tina Knudsen. “It’s the same fund that pays for kitchen equipment, food purchase and cafeteria-staff salaries. [The Texas Education Agency] will allow us to keep three months worth of funds, and right now, we have just over a month.”
Knudsen and Ratliff expressed concern about the available funds, as some kitchen equipment is becoming obsolete and will need to be replaced soon.
Still, board members were not entirely convinced the increase was the best thing to do.
“I think that we should look at what the cafeterias are serving, and try to target our meals more to what the kids are eating,” said trustee Dennis Placke. “I know my kids take lunches when they don’t like what’s on the menu, and if we increase our sales, we can increase our revenue without raising prices.”
Trustee Tim Juarez was concerned that the increase might impact students along racial lines.
“I’d like to know the breakdown, campus by campus, of who we’re serving meals to,” he said. “That would help us make a more informed decision about these things. We need to know who this will impact.”
Without the price increase, the student nutrition budget would see a deficit in excess of $35,000 next year.
“I think that we have an obligation to the students and the employees,” board president John Flores said. “I just don’t think that approving a deficit budget is the thing to do.”
The price increase passed the board with a 3-1 vote, with Flores, Placke and Gary Allen voting for the increase, and Juarez voting against it. Trustees Carl Ohlendorf, Charles Kelly and Clint Mohle were not present for the meeting.
The price increase marks the first time LISD has raised lunch prices since 2001. Breakfast prices were increased to $1.10 in 2004, after being $1 since 2001.
The board requested another review of meal prices in April 2006.