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School meal prices increasing a dime in Ashwaubenon

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – To make up for the deficit from operating the school lunch program during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ashwaubenon school board unanimously agreed June 10 to increase all meal prices by a dime for the 2020-21 school year.

Breakfast will now be $1.70 for students in grades K-12 and $2.25 for adults and guests, while lunch will go up to $2.85 for grades K-5, $3.10 for 6-12 students and $3.75 for adults and guests.

Business Director Keith Lucius said the district’s food service program had “a strange year, financially, like no other, and not necessarily in a good scenario as far as finances” with students not being physically present to purchase meals.

Lucius said revenue has been down, while food costs have gone up.

“We can’t even get some of the food that we normally serve,” he said. “Even with revenue being down, costs are up because of that as well.”

Kaitlin Tauriainen, child nutrition coordinator, said the district’s food service budget is “not looking fantastic” for this school year “mostly because we haven’t had kids in school, so our revenue has greatly gone down.”

Based on guidance from the state Department of Public Instruction to help a district determine meal prices, Tauriainen said an across-the-board increase of 10 cents per meal, for breakfast and lunch, is recommended for 2020-21.

Board President Jay Van Laanen and other board members said they didn’t have a problem with increasing meal prices by a dime.

“The lunch program has been very, very successful over the years,” Van Laanen said. “We understand the situation you’re in now is just a blip.”

Lucius said the purpose of the food service program is to “help kids be ready to learn and help families.”

“That’s what it’s done,” he said. “Even though financially it hasn’t been an outstanding year, (for) families affected, kids affected, it has been.”

Lucius said the district received federal funding for the meals served and picked up during the pandemic, “but it’s just not sufficient enough to cover the costs with food prices going up and the labor costs that we have and all the revenue we’re losing from family-paid meals.”

Tauriainen said the district provided bags containing breakfast and lunch together during the pandemic.

“A lot of food that we’ve had to purchase is stuff that’s not part of our commodity agreement, which is making the food more expensive as well,” she said.

Lucius and Tauriainen said the district provided around 500 to 650 bags with breakfast and lunch daily during the pandemic.

With federal funding for the district’s lunch program ending when the current school year concludes June 30, Lucius said there will no longer be nine remote sites to provide meals this summer.

“Then we go to our normal summer feeding program, which will be (at) Parkview and Fort Howard Park,” he said. “June 30 is the last day for nine locations, and then we’re going down to two.”

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