Loudoun County Public Schools students and employees are being offered healthier options in their schools’ cafeterias, and in September, they will pay for it.
During the Thursday, July 6, School Board meeting, members voted to increase meal prices by 15 cents, in light of an increase in meal participation and the cost of health-food items.
Currently breakfast costs 90 cents, elementary-school lunch costs $1.85, secondary lunch costs $1.95 and an adult meal costs $2.45. In September, breakfast will cost $1.10, elementary lunch will cost $2, secondary lunch will cost $2.10 and an adult meal will cost $3.
THE MOTION was made by vice chairman Thomas Reed (At Large), seconded by Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) and passed 5-3-1, with J. Warren Geurin (Sterling), Jospeh Guzman (Sugarland Run) and John Andrews (Potomac) opposing and Sarah Smith (Leesburg) absent.
School Board and health, safety and wellness committee member Priscilla Godfrey (Broad Run) reminded her colleagues that one of their goals when they were first elected in November 2003 was to improve the health, safety and wellness of students. She said a big part of that goal is the food served in Loudoun County Public Schools.
"Fresh fruits and vegetables costs greater amounts of money than macaroni and cheese and hot dogs," she said. "We have to pay a price for that and the students do as well."
Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Evan Mohler said 56 percent of students participated in the school meal program, a 6 percent increase over the past four years.
"We have to be equipped to feed everyone," Mohler said.
In addition to an increase in participation, Loudoun County schools selected a healthier menu to serve faculty and students.
Mohler said the school system now serves more fruits and vegetables and offers students healthy options, like an apple instead of a chocolate chip cookie.
"We are conscious of carbs," Mohler said. "The key is to find things youngsters will eat and are healthy for them."
In an effort to alleviate an increase in food prices on the school budget, Mohler said the 15 cent increase is a way to "cut down on what we’re losing."
"We need some help and this is one way to do it," he said.
THE ACTION is estimated to generate $526,000.
"We have an opportunity to pick up between half a million [dollars] and $600,000 we won’t have to include in next year’s budget," Mohler said.
Reed pointed out that if the money didn’t come from faculty and students, it would have to be included in the budget.
"If we don’t raise the prices it could impact books, textbooks and classrooms," he said.
He also pointed out that county schools meal prices will be equal to or lower than surrounding school prices.
Last year, Montgomery County Public Schools charged $1 for breakfast, $1.95 for elementary-school lunch and $2.05 for secondary lunch. If the Montgomery County School Board approves staff recommendations, the schools will charge $1.25, $2.25 and $2.50.
Fairfax County Public Schools meal prices are equivalent to Loudoun's meal prices.
Geurin was concerned about the students who receive reduced-price and free lunch.
LCPS offers students who qualify reduced-price lunch and free lunch. During the 2005-2006 school year, 3,940 applied for reduced-price lunch and 1,814 applied for free lunch. The reduced-price lunch program sells students lunch for 40 cents.
"That will remain the same," Mohler said. "The children that really need to be protected are protected."
SUPERINTENDENT Edgar B. Hatrick said the meal price increase has more to do with production and preparation of the food, than the price of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"You [School Board] have granted raises to cafeteria employees," Hatrick said. "In a restaurant, when you’re bearing the costs, you would raise the price of meals."