USDA Standards Driving Up School Lunch Prices

According to an Oklahoma school district nutritionist Amy Herrold, thanks to USDA standards, her district is “required to provide an extra serving of fruit at breakfast. Last year,” says Herrold, “we started taking steps to raise average meal prices by at least 10 cents per year until the weighted average lunch price equals or exceeds the USDA target (free and reduced) meal price. We must do this to comply with the USDA’s Paid Lunch Equity requirement as set forth in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. All school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program will be raising their prices.”

According to child nutrition director Dan Lindsey, “a breakfast will cost $1.60 for all grades, lunch will cost $2.60 for elementary and middle school students and high school students will be paying $2.90. The reduced price for breakfast is $.30 and $.40 for lunch will stay the same.”

While the thought of children having to pay higher prices for school meals seems unfortunate, ultimately, it’s taxpayers who don’t qualify for any government assistance that may experience the most unfortunate consequences of all. Not only will their own children see their school meal prices go up, they’re also stuck footing a higher bill for those already receiving school meal-related subsidies.

To see if a family qualifies for free meals or for reduced price meals there are specific guidelines that must be reached.

Parents or guardians only have to complete one Free and Reduced Price School Meals Application for all students in a household, Lindsey said.

“The completed application should be returned to your child’s school or cafeteria,” he said.

All children in households receiving benefits from SNAP, Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families can get free meals regardless of the family income. Children can get free meals if the household’s gross income is within the free limits on the federal Income Eligibility Guidelines.

According to a Letter to Household for the 2014-15 School Year, if a parent receives a Notice of Direct Certification for free meals, it should not be completed, but school officials should know if any children in the household are not listed on the Notice of Direct Certification letter received.

Foster children under the legal responsibility of a foster care agency or court are eligible for free meals. Children in households participating in WIC may be eligible for free or reduced price meals.

Homeless, runaway, Head Start and migrant children who meet the definition of each term also are eligible for free meals. Children do not have to be U.S. citizens to qualify for free or reduced price meals.

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