The Burlington Free Press reports that the South Burlington school district will raise cafeteria lunch prices by 45 cents to $2.75 for elementary students and by 70 cents to $3.25 for middle and high school students. The price increase is in response to rising food costs, employee wage increases, and staff health benefits. Indeed, "the district’s cost for fresh produce is up 22 percent over last year; grocery prices are 26 percent higher; and milk’s up, too, according to business manager John Stewart." The district also "increased wages for its food service employees by 3 percent over last year, and the cost of the food service staff’s health benefits went up 5 percent." Superintendent Jeanne Collins explained that the "district does everything it can to keep prices as low as possible while maintaining a sustainable and nutritional food program."
"Regardless of rising costs, families who qualify for free meals will continue to receive those meals at no charge, said Joanne Heidkamp, program director for the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger. That's because "schools are reimbursed by the federal government for each free breakfast and lunch served to an eligible child. The amount a child pays for a reduced-price lunch is 40 cents, and the government reimburses the school for the balance up to the full federal reimbursement rate."
Other schools are following Burlington's lead. "At Charlotte Central School, the price of lunch will increase to $3 from $2.50. Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston school lunch prices will increase 25 cents, to $2.50, and Champlain Valley Union High School will remain at $2.25." In addition, "the Milton School District will raise its lunch prices 25 cents — to $2.25 for elementary students and $2.50 for middle and high school students – and lunch prices at Shelburne Community School will also rise by 25 cents."
Schools expand free lunch program
Vermont Public Radio reports that "at least two Vermont school districts have expanded their free lunch programs because they worry more families could go hungry this year." Currently, "the poorest children get free breakfasts and free lunches" in Vermont, and "kids from families who aren't quite as poor have to pay some of the [meal] price - 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch." The changes in the Burlington and Essex school districts will "eliminate distinctions among poor families" for both meals. The state will "pay for breakfasts for all children whose family income is less than 185 percent of poverty - or $40,000 for a family of four," and Burlington and Essex will cover the lunch costs. In Burlington, the free lunches are expected to cost the city about $10,000.