School meal prices going up

School meal prices going up
TRI-CITIES, Wash. - KEPR has learned the price of hot lunches is going up at many schools across the Tri-Cities.

The higher costs are affecting Kennewick and Pasco schools.

The clank of the trays, the pushing, shoving and hustle of kids at lunch time, it's controlled chaos in the cafeteria.

Kennewick takes a hard look at what it serves and for how much.

Nutrition Services Director, Sam Shick said,"We're not just throwing the food out there and crossing our fingers, hoping they eat it."

Whether it's produce, fruit or meat, prices are up. There's also a numbers game on the price of meals and what the state and feds reimburse. That's led to a small hike for prices across the Kennewick and Pasco School Districts.

Breakfast will go up a dime. Lunch will jump 15 cents, costing $2.50 for elementary schools, $2.75 for everyone else. Even milk will cost more up a nickel to 55 cents.

While that doesn't seem like much, multiply those costs by 13 thousand plates every day. That's how many meals Sam Shick is responsible for. As Kennewick's Nutrition Services Director, he follows strict guidelines on what to serve.

Like most of us, if something doesn't fit in our food budget, we'll replace it with something else. And that's what Sam does.

Swapping around one veggie for another, offering canned fruit instead of fresh. Another resource he uses, the US Food Commodities Program.

He said, "We receive things like canned fruit and vegetables, frozen fruits like strawberries and peaches."

Purchased directly from farmers and processed just for school meals. The district buys goods a year in advance to lock in discounts.

Sam continues, "You have to be able to be a little psychic as far as being able to figure out what you're going to be able to serve the following year."

He's hoping to stretch district dollars to keep healthy food on the cafeteria tables.

Meal prices for the Richland School district are already higher than both Kennewick and Pasco Districts, 15 cents to a quarter more.

They do not expect to raise their prices anytime soon.