Meal prices once again are on the rise at Flat Rock-Hawcreek Schools.
Yet Food Service Director Bonnie Burbrink said students' parents seem to understand that the federal government mandates the increases, and that there's really nothing the school district can do except keep the increase to a minimum each school year -- 10 cents per lunch for the coming year.
School board members on Tuesday unanimously approved the hikes in all categories, effective with the 2017-18 school year. As such, breakfast prices will rise from $1 currently to $1.25 for students, and $1.30 to $2.25 for adults, according to the approved schedule. Lunch prices -- the most popular meal of the day, across the board -- will rise from $2.25 to $2.35 for elementary school students, $2.40 to $2.50 for junior/senior high school students, and $3 to $3.50 for adults.
"When you look at the amount of food we serve compared to anyplace else, our students are still getting the best bargain around," said Burbrink, who attended the school board meeting to answer the board's questions. "I think people see that and appreciate that."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been requiring schools to charge progressively more for their lunches since July 2012, when the federal agency implemented its Equity in School Lunch Pricing Program. The goal of that program is to bring the amount paying students pay into alignment with the amount the federal government pays for economically disadvantaged students to eat for free. Currently, the federal government's full-price target is $2.86 per lunch.
That means another 10-cent hike is sure to come with the 2018-29 school year. And the school year that follows.
Such is the responsibility of a district that wants the USDA's continued help.
"If you're not part of the program, you don't get reimbursed, and you get only market price for meals and have to charge market price," Burbrink said.
She said the local school system's meal program is "totally self sufficient and has to pay for itself," independent of public tax dollars. For example, the district recently had to replace a cafeteria refrigerator, which had to come out of the Food Service's coffers.