St. Vrain Valley OKs meal cost uptick for next year

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By Ben Wiebesiek

LONGMONT — During its April 9 regular meeting, the school board for the St. Vrain Valley School district unanimously approved price increases for next year’s school lunches.

According to a memo from District Superintendent Don Haddad, this increase is based on the continual increase in food, labor, benefits, and fuel cost.

Shelly Allen, director of food services for the district, told the board before the vote about the increases in the number of meals that the St. Vrain Valley School District was serving this year.

“We have not had an increase since August of 2011,” Allen said. “And so we’re asking for a quarter increase for lunches only.”

Allen said her department has seen sharp increases in year-over-year numbers for meals served.

“Currently, at this time, as through the end of March, we’ve provided 20,000 more lunches than we did last year at this time,” Allen said. “And 235,000 more breakfasts than we have at this time.”

But Allen said breakfast costs did not need to go up for students for next year, but the proposed price changes do include a quarter increase on the cost of breakfasts served to adults.

The board asked what drove the increase in the number of breakfasts, and Allen said the breakfast offering has been promoted to raise awareness.

“We’ve been pushing breakfast,” Allen said. “Breakfast in the classroom in ten schools, so we’re feeding all students in the schools, and when you have two of those schools being Thunder Valley and Timberline, when you’re feeding a thousand kids, makes a big difference.”

Thunder Valley and Timberline are the district’s K-8 schools, with Thunder Valley located at the site of the old Frederick High School.

“We will be starting three more breakfast programs in district schools,” Allen said. “Trail Ridge, Longmont Estates and possibly Twin Peaks. So hopefully, we’ll have more breakfast participation next year.”

School Board President John Creighton asked Allen if the prices are pegged to what is reimbursed through the Federal free-and-reduced lunch.

“Right now it brings us right up into what the reimbursement is for a free meal,” Allen replied. “We actually would of had to increase 22 cents to be in line with the new regulations.”

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions.

“Do these prices cover all of our costs?” Creighton asked, and Allen replied that the proposed price change would cover the district.

“The adults are getting a heck of a deal,” Creighton said. “My kids were in elementary school, and the best part of that was when they let me eat lunch with them; I got lunch for a third of a price I would get anywhere else.”

Allen said that in the last two years, the district has implemented 30 salad bars in St. Vrain schools.

“All of our secondary, and half of our elementary, and we’ll purchase the remainder of those for this next school year,” Allen said. “And we’re seeing that that is a big boost in our participation right there, which lets students pick fruits and vegetables and choose what they want to eat, and then they end up eating what they take.”

  Board Secretary Debbie Lammers asked about the food offering for kindergarten students.

“Because now we have so many full-day kindergartners that we might not have had a few years ago,” Lammers said. “How does that full-day kindergarten work with nutritional services?”

Allen responded that the qualification process for free-and-reduced lunch was the same for kindergartners as it is for other elementary students.

“At this time, students that are ‘reduced,’ we actually pick up the K through 2, the state of Colorado does,” Allen said. “So we’re able to pick up those at no charge also. And for participation, we see a lot of participation in kindergarten, which really helps build the framework for them eating in the cafeteria.”

Allen said both half-day and full-day kindergartners were welcome at lunch.