MUSD to raise lunch prices to keep funding


The Maricopa Unified School District school board unanimously voted Wednesday to raise the price of school lunches to comply with federal law.

Starting in the upcoming school year, elementary school students will pay $2.75 for lunch and seventh- through 12th-graders will pay $3. Breakfast meals will remain free.

To meet the congressional mandate of equity in school-lunch prices, district staff proposed prices be raised 50 cents for elementary students and 25 cents for secondary students.

“I understand that it’s never easy to raise prices but this isn’t about paying for the free lunches or anything like that,” MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut said. “We have to do this to comply with federal mandates. If (the board) didn’t approve this price raise, all or some of our federal reimbursement could be compromised.”

If a child is enrolled in the free-meal program, all of his or her meals will come at no cost to the parent. The meal is paid for by a per-meal reimbursement of $2.86 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under a reduced-price lunch student, parents pay 40 cents per meal; while federal a reimbursement of $2.46 will be given. Schools are reimbursed 27 cents for every full-price lunch.

Suzette Moe, the director of the district’s child food and nutrition department, told board members “the United States Department of Agriculture is aware that the new meal regulations will be a financial impact to all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program due to the requirement of a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that we are required to offer each day and 100 percent whole-grain items.”

She explained that as the cost of food is increasing, the components required in breakfast are changing for the next school year also boosting the cost.

***ADVERTISEMENT***The “USDA feels this mandate will make things ‘fair’ and help district food service departments remain stable,” she said. “As you may, or may not, be aware food service departments are required to be self supporting and not depend on financial support from the district maintenance and operations budget.”

Board member Leslie Carlyle-Burnett said she knows any price hikes can be tough on many families. “I just want the parents to know that I feel for them.”

Board President Torri Anderson added, “It just has to be done.”