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School lunch prices may go up in Londonderry

LONDONDERRY — Londonderry’s school lunch prices may go up again next year as the food service program struggles to break even while meeting federal school lunch standards and coping with overall declines in lunch program participation.If passed by the School Board later this month, lunch prices will increase by 10 cents per meal at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

School officials noted that annual 10-cent increases could be necessary through 2018 to maintain financial stability. This year the Londonderry school lunch program is facing a $25,000 net loss.Food Service Director Nancy Faucon said the changes made at the federal level in recent years haven’t had positive results in Londonderry.

Faucon noted the new federal requirement making it mandatory for each meal to include servings of fruits and vegetables has made hot lunch an unappealing option for a lot of older students.

“In many cases, participation has dropped because we’re forcing the children to take something they don’t want,” Faucon said at Tuesday night’s School Board meeting. “This has been an issue especially with the high school students.”

In 2012, the district served a total of 410,120 meals. The following year, that number was down to 374,802 and based on current projections, school officials expect to have served approximately 360,000 meals by the end of this calendar year.“Compounding this, our enrollment keeps dropping,” District Business Administrator Peter Curro said, noting that annual meal price increases have been a necessary evil over the past several years.

“We really have no fund balance right now,” Curro said. “The program has been losing money over the past four years.”

To potentially earn more revenue, last fall the district launched a new breakfast program at the middle school, along with separate lunch lines for those getting lunch or just a small snack.

School officials noted that about half of the students having breakfast at school are eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.

Faucon said the middle school breakfast program resulted in about $1,500 in revenues at the middle school this year- essentially breaking even when factoring in labor and food costs.

The Londonderry School Board will further debate the district’s lunch program May 20, and are expected to vote on whether to raise lunch prices next year.

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