School lunch prices on the rise

May 16, 2008 6:05:34 PM PDT
The cost to feed students is going up and that means some parents in Delaware will be paying more for school lunch. The culprit? Higher gas prices.

Now, some are worried that the extra expense could hurt families that are already struggling to make ends meet.

Three of the four major school districts in New Castle County plan to raise prices in the cafeteria next fall.

Indications are most other school districts in the state will do the same.

"Our prices for dairy and corn produce, and paper products, have increased anywhere from 15 to 40 percent this year," said Barbara Meredith of the Brandywine School District.

A single sandwich bun cost the Brandywine School District 7 cents last year, but it's doubled in price now. The fish sticks cost 70 cents now, up from 58 cents. It's simple math that kids at Tally Middle School do everyday. The district is spending 3 dollars to prepare a typical platter, but the school charges much less.

"It ranges at the elementary level from 65 cents to 80 cents for breakfast to $1.25 to $1.50 for lunches. It's a very good deal," Meredith said.

You don't have to tell that to Lori Palmer, who works in the cafeteria and has a teenager in the district. Her child eats breakfast and lunch everyday at school for about 35 dollars a month.

"What they get fed for lunch everyday, you can't buy anywhere else for $1.50. Nowhere. Not McDonald's. Not Burger King," said Palmer.

How high prices will rise hasn't been determined by the Brandywine School District, but state officials want to remind parents that schools don't make a profit in cafeterias.

As if dealing with rising food costs isn't enough, the price for filling up school buses is hitting districts too. A gallon of diesel last year was $1.99. It's around $3.71 now -- money that's hard to swallow for any public school.

So far the Colonial school district is the only district in New Castle County that doesn't plan to hike cafeteria prices. The superintendent said too many of his low-income students would be affected.