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Cafeteria prices hiked by Marble Falls school district to meet federal guidelines

MARBLE FALLS — Just a month after taking over cafeteria services from a private contractor, the Marble Falls Independent School District is raising meal prices.

Officials said the hike is in response to new requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We don’t have a choice in this,” said Mary Davidson, the Marble Falls ISD food services director, during a School Board meeting July 25.

MFISD trustees voted 4-2 to raise elementary school lunch prices from $1.60 to $1.75; elementary school breakfasts from 80 cents to 90 cents; secondary school lunches from $1.85 to $2; secondary breakfasts from 80 cents to $1; adult and

teacher lunches from $2.50 to $3; and adult and teacher breakfasts from $1.10 to $1.75.

This is the first price increase for meals in more than 10 years, MFISD officials said.

The minimum increase required by the government is 5 cents, but Davidson recommended slightly higher prices so MFISD wouldn’t be hit by a big jump in two or three years.

Board member Kevin Naumann wasn’t sold on raising the prices more than a nickel.

“I know we’re talking about only pennies,” he said. “But if we’re only required to raise it 5 cents, I don’t see why we should raise it more.”

Trustee Kelly Fox agreed with Naumann and voted against the measure.

The hike is prompted by the USDA’s efforts to close the gap between what the government funds for the free-lunch program and what schools charge for regular meals, Davidson said.

Trustee Tommy Chaney asked whether it might look bad raising prices since MFISD only took over food services July 1.

Board President Rick Edwards said he didn’t think so.

“We know the quality of food and service will increase,” he said. “This (price increase) is a new rule by the USDA.”

The USDA reimburses the district $2.70 for every meal served under the free- and reduced-lunch program for economically disadvantaged children, Davidson said. She said the federal agency also kicks in 27 cents for meals of other students not in the free-lunch program.

By subtracting the 27 cents from the $2.70 figure, the USDA’s reimbursement rate is basically $2.43 per free-lunch/breakfast meal, Davidson said.

Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 passed by Congress, the USDA is requiring school districts make the cost of the paid meals more equitable with the federal reimbursement rate for the free-lunch program, Davidson told trustees.

Instead of making districts close the gap in one year, Davidson said the USDA is allowing schools make the adjustment over several years.

Under previous lunch prices, the MFISD elementary school gap was 83 cents ($1.60), while the secondary gap was 58 cents ($1.85).

While the minimum required increase is 5 cents per meal, Davidson recommended a higher price so the district wouldn’t be forced to make a more significant jump someday.

“If an elementary student at 175 school days had lunch every day, you’re looking at $26.50 more for lunch,” she said.

Interim Superintendent Jim Boyle said moving control of food services directly to the district saves money. For the last 20 years, the district had contracted with Aramark to operate the cafeterias and feed students and faculty.

“If you compare it to our competitors (local private restaurants), you’ll see MFISD offers the best deal in town,” Boyle said.

The Burnet Consolidated Independent School District also recently voted to raise food prices to comply with USDA requirements.