By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Clinton students will need to spend another dime for lunch next school year after the Clinton School Board approved an increase in lunch prices.
The increase is due to the the federal guidelines for paid lunch equity, which ensures sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for lunches served to students that are not eligible for free or reduced price meals.
Paid lunch equity requires schools that receive reimbursements for free and reduced price lunches from the federal government close the gap between what they are reimbursed and what the school district charges for a paid lunch.
A little more than 54 percent of the Clinton School District qualifies for free and reduced lunch compared to 40 percent in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Education. For free lunches, the district is reimbursed $2.86 cents while it receives 27 cents for a paid lunch, leaving a $2.59 cent gap.
“The paid lunch equity from the federal government requires us to increase prices up to a level of $2.59 if we’re not there. This is not our call,” Food Service Director Jeff Weaver told board members Monday. School districts have been instructed to make a 4.93 percent increase to lunch prices, he said.
Last year, the school board approved a 5-cent increase after Weaver explained to board members that the district would raise the prices gradually rather than abruptly.
“The problem was that last year, the federal increased by 9 cents, so we lost a little bit on that,” Weaver said.
The increase will bring the cash price of an elementary school lunch from $1.95 to $2.05, a middle school lunch from $2 to $2.10 and a high school lunch from $2.10 to $2.20. SMARTT prices also will increase by 10 cents at every level.
The price of breakfast also will increase next year from $1.15 for all grade levels to $1.20.
“It’s not really our call. I wish we didn’t have to raise prices, but it’s a federal mandate,” Weaver said.
Weaver also updated board members on how the district handled the first year of stricter federal guidelines regarding fruits and vegetables and students’ caloric intake. While the district is still working to meet some of the guidelines, Weaver said, students are eating more fruits and vegetables and will soon be able to eat more protein and grains.
Students will again be able to take advantage of the summer lunch program, Weaver told board members. This year the program will run from June 3 to July 26 with a free lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every day at Jefferson and Bluff elementary schools.