The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 16, 2012

School lunch story prompts questions

By Courtney L. Saylor
Herald Staff Writer

---- — Under pressure from the feds, local school boards likely will be raising school lunch prices for next year.

Sharon City School District currently has the lowest paid lunch prices in the state and the nickel and dime hike will make them tied with New Castle.

The price Sharon’s eyeing is $1.25, which is what lunches cost at Reynolds High School in the mid-1990s.

Times are tough all over and families have less money to spend to feed their kids while the price of the food the schools are buying keep going up.

The government is pushing school districts to increase prices - they should be about $2.50 this year – so that the free and reduced lunch programs aren’t subsidizing the meals of families that can afford it.

But looking through the school lunch price report as of the first of the year, dozens of the 500 districts in the state feed all the kids for free. In Mercer County, Farrell is the only district with free lunch for everyone, as 82 percent of the population qualifies for the national program.

In Mercer County, the highest lunch price is at Grove City, with $2.10. From highest to lowest, the rest of the bunch is Sharpsville, Keystone Charter School and Mercer, Jamestown, Commodore Perry and Hermitage, Reynolds, West Middlesex, Lakeview and Greenville.

The highest lunch prices in the state are at Pennsbury School District in Bucks County, where high schoolers pay $3.20 for lunch.

In most high schools, the days of one choice are gone, as kids can order from a la carte lines like at a food court.

You’ve got to wonder why officials didn’t consider raising prices a little at a time rather than waiting for the government to force it.

Food service is an independent operation and plenty of schools have problems keeping operations in the black.

It’s similar to how many communities held off raising taxes or sewer or water rates while times were good, though it’s sad to think kids living just above the cutoff for the free and reduced program will be the ones paying the costs in the coming years.

(All figures are for high school lunches. Elementary prices are typically 10-30 cents cheaper in Mercer County.)