School lunch prices on the rise
Rockland — In an attempt to reduce the Regional School Unit 13 food service program deficit, the school board voted Aug. 7 on a district-wide increase for breakfast and lunch prices.
"Given the state of our food service program we need to increase prices to help offset the lack of funding and offset the cost of food," said board member Donald Robishaw of Rockland.
In the 2013 audit, food service had an accumulated deficit of $319,000, said Business Manager Peter Orne. A total of $170,000 was included in the 2014-2015 budget to help cover the shortfall in the program. Officials have said there is hardly a district in the state that does not subsidize its food service program, but said the situation in RSU 13 is worse than other districts.
Elementary school prices will increase from $1.20 to $1.25 for breakfast, $2.70 to $2.75 for lunch; secondary school prices will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 for breakfast and $2.95 to $3 for lunch; and adult prices will go from $2.25 to $2.50 and $4.80 to $5.
South School qualifies for a federal program, which will provide free lunch to all students regardless of income.
"We hate to raise it and have any increases, but we have to pay the bills," Robishaw said.
Board member Carol Bachofner, also of Rockland, said she thinks the quality of the food needs improvement and challenged board members to eat lunch at the schools.
"Let's make this food palatable enough so people want it," she said. "We can't just hike prices because fewer people will buy it and we will be further in the soup."
Bachofner was the sole board member to vote against the price increase.
Rockland Esther "Tess" Kilgour said it is anticipated the district will not have enough money in this year's budget to cover costs and the district will face this problem again in the coming year.
"We have to do all we can to not add to this deficit," Kilgour said.
Board member Steven Roberts said it would be wise of the board to bring the issue of the quality of the food to the superintendent's attention.
"I would like us as a district to look at how we can compete with children's choices to offer something that is nutritious, delicious and affordable," he said.
Orne also agreed the program has a revenue problem, but also need to make the food attractive. He said he intends to visit the schools to review the programs and also will be eating at the schools.
"There will be a deficit, but we can shrink the gap," Orne said.
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