HOPEWELL: Elementary school lunch prices to increase

It’s going to cost Hopewell Valley Regional School District elementary school students an extra 5 cents to buy lunch in September – and the Board of Education is not happy about it.

School district officials were told that the district either had to raise the price by 5 cents for a “standard” lunch or risk losing about $90,000 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch program.

Business administrator Robert Colavita told the school board that while the plan was to keep lunch prices flat, the district was told that it had to raise the price of an elementary school “standard” lunch by 5 cents – from $2.60 to $2.65.

The price increase does not affect premium or deli lunches at the elementary schools, which remain flat at $3.85. Lunches – both “standard” and “premium” – also are not affected at the middle school and high school.

Colavita said the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch program reviewed the lunch prices and informed school district officials that the standard lunch cost was under-priced by 5 cents.

The United States Department of Agriculture uses a formula to determine lunch prices, and the Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s price for the standard lunch at the elementary school was not where it needed to be, Colavita said.

If the school board does not want to raise the prices, it has the option to drop out of the program and lose about $90,000 in funding, he said. Last year, the school district received $91,340 in federal and state reimbursements.

School board president Lisa Wolff said the board was not happy about having to raise lunch prices. School district officials “work hard” so they do not have to raise lunch prices, she said.

Raising the school lunch price is “counter to what (we) want to do,” Wolff said. School district officials seek to keep lunch prices as low as possible, she said, adding that unless the district raises the price, it will lose funding.

Wolff said it was “ridiculous” to force the school district to raise the lunch price. She said that on principle, she does not like to raise the school lunch price, but that’s the only way that the district can avoid losing $90,000.