School lunch prices set to increase

Breakfast and lunch sales within the St. Marys Area School District (SMASD) increased this year, and the cost of these meals will also increase for the 2011-12 school year, according to Superintendent Ann Kearney.At a recent school board meeting, Kearney presented information from a report issued by SMASD Food Services Director Jennifer Asti."Lunch prices had not been raised for many years and they were increased for next school year by state and federal mandates," Kearney said.Recent legislation mandated the increase in lunch prices, as school lunch prices are now required to equal the federal reimbursement rate of $2.72 for the free meals the school system provides. The change was part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed into law by President Obama in December.As part of the change, elementary lunches will increase from $1.45 to $1.50 and middle and high school lunches from $1.50 to $1.75. Teacher lunches will increase from $2.25 to $2.50 and the ala carte will be increased 25 cents as well. The change does not impact free lunches or reduced lunches, which will remain at 40 cents. This year, the district sold 39,692 breakfasts, for which they were reimbursed. This is an increase of 3,474 breakfasts from 2009-10.Helping to defray the cost of the breakfast program were grants of $500 which were awarded to each school from The Dairy Association and Project PA, which allowed the promotion of school breakfast programs in the district. "I believe there are several key factors that played a role in the increase of our school breakfast program," Asti said.Among those was an increase in the hot breakfast options this school year, which Asti noted the students seem to enjoy more than cereal and cold breakfasts. Prior to 2009, hot breakfast meals were only served twice a week.In March, a Special Guest Breakfast day was held in all three of the district's public elementary schools. The event featured a variety of healthy breakfast items made available to students and their guest for free.In May, a successful free breakfast buffet was provided to middle and high school students featuring healthy breakfast choices.According to Asti, breakfast flyers were given to all parents, explaining the importance of breakfast and the school's program."Breakfast participation has increased at the elementary level since that time. Parents had remarked they were not aware we had a breakfast program for all students. Previous belief was that breakfast was provided to students who participated in the free meal program only," Asti said.Next year, Asti hopes to increase breakfast participation by implementing the "milk mustache" campaign at the elementary level. Students who choose to participate are chosen at random to have their photo taken with the "milk mustache" as featured on the "Got Milk" campaign. Their photo will be featured in their school's cafeteria."The campaign has been proven to increase the consumption of milk, as well as increase breakfast participation, as students want to have the chance to be chosen to have their photo taken; therefore, they need to have participated in breakfast at some point during that period," Asti added.Asti explained that new regulations may be implemented as early as the 2012-13 school year and indicated the breakfast program would be required to include a daily protein source and a 50 percent whole-grain product in the first year of compliance and 100 percent whole-grain products in the second year.