Wake County parents will need to dig deeper into their pockets this fall to pay for higher school meal prices for their children.
On Tuesday, the Wake County school board approved 25-cent increases in school breakfast and lunch prices for the 2016-17 school year. That means parents could pay $45 more per year for their children’s school breakfasts and the same additional amount for their lunches in what will be the school district’s first price increase since 2010.
Breakfast will rise to $1.25 in elementary schools and $1.50 in middle and high schools. Lunch will increase to $2.25 in elementary schools and $2.50 in middle and high schools.
There is no change expected in the price for reduced-priced meals. It’s free for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch for those students who qualify for the lower price due to their reported family income.
Multiple reasons are cited for Wake’s price increase, including rising production and labor costs, fewer students buying food because of new federal nutritional standards and federal mandates over meal pricing.
In requesting the increase, school officials presented documentation showing that Wake’s new meal prices remain reasonable compared to other school systems in North Carolina. For instance, Wake’s new prices would match what elementary and high school students now pay for lunch in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, which is second only in size in the state to Wake.
School districts around the state and the nation have raised their meal prices since the federal school nutrition program was revised in 2010. For instance, the Orange County school system raised lunch prices by 10 cents for this fall to $2.30 in elementary schools and $2.80 cents in middle and high schools.
In addition to requiring healthier foods that are more expensive to make and are less popular, the federal government wants to ensure price equity. This means making sure that the price of paid meals is close to the amount districts get reimbursed for serving subsidized meals.
School child nutrition programs are supposed to be financially self-supporting.