Reader Feedback: Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Wrap-Up

Dan Witt, supervisor of food services, Pueblo County School District 70 in Colorado, responded to our article in March's K-12 Spotlight. Witt expressed concern about the meal price equity clause.

Dan Witt, supervisor of food services, Pueblo County School District 70 in Colorado, says: The big concern, which is not getting the press it needs, is the minimum price for paid kids. We are a very low free/reduced school district—at 39%—and depend on paid kids eating our meals. Pueblo is known for its low cost of living, so pricing is very important to keep participation up, which in turn keeps costs low. We now charge $1.70 for elementary and $1.90 for middle/high school paid lunches. We believe that we have to offer low-cost, high-quality meals that meet federal guidelines that kids will eat.

The new pricing structure, which starts July 1, 2011, says the minimum price for paid students will be the free reimbursement rate of $2.72 minus the paid reimbursement 26 cents, which equals $2.46. That means we will have to raise prices 76 cents for elementary and 56 cents for middle/high or find a different funding source. I’m not sure what is meant by a different funding source, but I have hard it could be the general fund, which is strapped for cash already. We would be able to raise prices 10 cents per year until we reach the $2.72 price. This would make the program become a welfare program because the paid kids would brown bag or buy a la carte leaving only the free/reduced kids getting the reimbursable lunch and those kids would not eat because they would be identified as low income. This in turn would cause my costs to go up and result in layoffs and lower quality foods to meet the reduced volume.

We need to retain control over the pricing structure to make sure kids are receiving high-quality meals that families can afford and the kids will eat, while meeting the federal guidelines. Nutrition is our business and we need to be able to run our business by pricing our products to meet the economic climate.

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