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Significant lunch price increase for Salem students

SALEM — Students and parents will be seeing a noticeable increase in school lunch prices next year.

On Tuesday night, the School Board approved Superintendent Michael Delahanty’s recommendation to raise lunch prices by 30 cents. Delahanty cited falling net revenues for the food services programs as well as more stringent federal guidelines for school food that have and will be going into effect in the future.

The new lunch prices for the next school year are $1.85 at the elementary schools, $2 at the middle school and $2.40 at the high school.

“This is a significant and substantial jump from where we have been,” said Delahanty. “Thirty cents is quite a bit of money to ask people to increase when it comes to school lunch, but we have kept our prices artificially low for many years. For the last few, we went up by a dime, and we continue to see a decrease in our expense and income rate.”

At a meeting earlier this spring, Delahanty told the School Board that net revenues for the food services program were down by about $40,000 compared to last year.

“We have a balance in the food services that has been decreasing steadily for the past few years and we need to try to catch up somehow,” said Delahanty.

The superintendent said the food services director and department is doing all it can to increase participation in the lunch program, but he said the federal guidelines for what can be served continue to get tighter.

“For example, in July 2014, all grains must be whole grain rich for breakfast and lunch and sodium restrictions will be going into place,” said Delahanty.

While he said the federal guidelines are largely to provide healthier ingredients, Delahanty said the food might not taste as good to students, leading to fewer who wish to purchase lunch at school.

“It’s rather bland and participation might go down even further, but we are hoping it doesn’t,” said Delahanty.

School Board member Michael Carney noted that while it is a large increase in school lunch prices, the prices are still lower than most school districts in the state.

In the Timberlane Regional School District, the School Board recently approved lunch price increases that will see elementary students pay $2.25, middle school students $2.75, and high school students $3.

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