Schenectady County

School lunch to cost more next year in Niskayuna

It will cost two quarters more for that plate of vegetables and chicken patty starting this fall in

It will cost two quarters more for that plate of vegetables and chicken patty starting this fall in the Niskayuna schools.

The Niskayuna Board of Education is raising lunch prices by 50 cents — the first lunch price increase since 2008. The cost increase is necessary so the program will stay in the black, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Matt Bourgeois. The district ran an $86,000 deficit in the 2011-12 year, but used surplus in the lunch fund program to balance its budget.

“We anticipate that if everything would remain approximately the same, we would generate enough money to maintain a break-even program next year — despite increased food costs,” he said.

School officials are bracing for an increase in food costs because of the country’s drought.

The new prices are $2.75 for an elementary school lunch, $3 for middle school, $3.25 for high school, $3.70 plus tax for an adult lunch and 50 cents for milk a la carte.

Including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the meals increased food costs by 8 percent from the previous year. Implementing full-day kindergarten required additional staff hours to provide an extra lunch period in the elementary schools, according to a memo from Bourgeois

During the past year, the district served more than 272,000 meals.

New federal guidelines going into effect this year require schools to reduce portion sizes and offer more fruits and vegetables.

Food Service Director Suzanne Wixom said the guidelines stipulate one ounce of protein for elementary school students and two ounces for high schoolers, which she said is very small.

“We have students on the football team and swim team that need more that,” she said.

Schools are not supposed to provide pizza and peanut butter sandwiches every day for children to buy.

Officials said the guidelines are making vegetables and fruits as important or more important than the main course.

“The entrée becomes the side,” Bourgeois said.

“A cheese stick for lunch is just not going to cut it in Niskayuna,” Wixom said.

She said some school districts are putting pudding and gelatin on their menus every day to try to meet the calorie counts.

Board member Jeanne Sosnow asked if students were eating these meals.

Bourgeois said they would find out when school starts.

“If they decide not to buy anything from the lunch program, that’s when it will be difficult for us to be self-sustaining,” he said.

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