School lunch prices to rise: Board votes for 50-cent increase to begin Aug. 9


Guampdn.com
Written by Brett Kelman

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The school board voted yesterday to increase cafeteria lunch prices by 50 cents, so when a new school year begins Aug. 9, public school students who pay full price for lunch will need $2.50 daily.

This is the latest in a series of price hikes that began in 2009, which were intended to close a funding gap that was costing the school system millions of dollars per year.

Since October 2009, cafeteria lunch meals have increased by $1.75 at island public schools.

Students who qualify for free meals and reduced meals are unaffected. Federal law requires reduced meals to cost no more than 35 cents.

However, for about 5,000 families that pay full price for school lunches, the 50-cent price hike will translate into an increase of $90 per school year, per child.

That means a $180 increase for Mike Charfauros, 51, whose twin daughters attend Ordot-Chalan Pago Elementary School.

“I think it’s about time I started packing them lunches,” Charfauros said yesterday, when he heard about the price hike. While he spoke, his daughters bounced against a sidewalk railing, waiting to take an afternoon swim at the Hagåtña pool.

Charfauros said he was pretty certain that he can make light lunches, like ham sandwiches and potato chips, for his two girls for less than $2.50 a day, especially if he buys in bulk.

The lunches will probably be better than the cafeteria food too, he said.

Another public school parent, Allan Ignacio, said he thought the government of Guam could recover the cost of school meals in other ways — maybe by increasing property taxes.

That way the cost of school meals wouldn’t fall solely on parents, Ignacio said, but he admitted it would be a little unfair that property owners with no children would have to contribute to the cost.

“I think the majority of people on island through, have kids in the school system,” Ignacio said. “And lot of them are property owners … I wish there was a better way, you know?”

Early increase

The price hike approved yesterday was scheduled to take affect in January, but the school board had to vote on it early, said DOE Deputy Superintendent Taling Taitano.

Taitano explained yesterday afternoon that the meal increase was applied early because of a new U.S. Department of Education initiative, which limits how much meals can rise at any one time.

Under the initiative, schools can only increase lunch prices by 10 cents at any given time, but school systems that already had a plan to increase by more than that could do so if they acted immediately.

Basically, if the school system was going to increase the price by 50 cents, they had to do it now, Taitano said.

Based on a price increase plan approved in 2009, the school system has one more 50-cent hike planned for 2013. Because of the new initiative, this price hike will probably have to be split into several 10-cent increases, Taitano said.

As of 2008, before Guam DOE had begun to increase prices, meals cost only 75 cents and the school system lost as much as $2.39 cents per meal served. Losses total more than $20,000 a day, according to Pacific Daily News files.

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