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U46 eyes school lunch price hike

Lead Lunch Supervisor Sally Stannard stacks rack chicken during lunch Wednesday Harriet Gifford Elementary School Elgin.  A cost increase

Lead Lunch Supervisor Sally Stannard stacks a rack of chicken during lunch Wednesday at Harriet Gifford Elementary School in Elgin. A cost increase of school lunches could raise the price from $2.50 to $2.65. February 6, 2013 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Smart Snacks in School

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new standards for all foods sold in schools.

The proposed “Smart Snacks in School” rule includes not just foods sold as part of federally supported school meals programs, but also in school vending machines and snack bars, according to the USDA. That also is part of the requirements of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

Those proposed standards include:

Promoting the availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.

Ensuring snack foods are lower in fat, sugar and sodium, and provide more of the nutrients kids need.

Allowing variation by age group for some things such as the size of drinks and their caffeine content.

Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches or treats for birthday parties and other celebrations, and allowing schools to continue traditions such as fundraisers and bake sales.

For the complete proposal, visit fns.usda.gov/cga/020113-snacks.pdf. To provide feedback on that proposal, visit regulations.gov.

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Updated: March 9, 2013 6:19AM



ELGIN — The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 brought with it a number of changes to school lunches — more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to school lunches; fewer salty and fatty foods; and low-fat and fat-free milk and “right-sized” portions for each grade level.

It also may bring higher lunch prices to Elgin School District U46.

U46 Chief Operations Officer Jeff King has proposed a 15-cent increase in school lunch prices.

If approved by the school board, that would raise the price of a lunch at schools in the Elgin school district from $2.50 to $2.65 in the 2013-14 school year.

“Actually, the new menus are going great,” said Claudie Phillips, director of the district’s food and nutrition department.

“The reason it’s more costly to us is before the children had to take three out of five items for lunch. ... (Now) they have to take a vegetable or a fruit, so they have to take an extra item they wouldn’t have taken before. Now we have to purchase that item.”

Increased food purchasing costs would add about 2 cents to school lunch prices, King said.

That increase mostly is because of an interim rule with a name that is a mouthful in itself: National School Lunch Program: School Food Service Revenue Amendments Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

That rule requires all districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program to raise their lunch prices to match the amount the U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburses them for free and reduced lunches, according to a memorandum from the USDA. Those free and reduced meals are made available to students who come from low-income families.

The district must raise its lunch prices 13 cents to match the amount the USDA reimburses it for free and reduced lunches, according to King.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires the USDA to establish nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, including snack foods. It was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, and its rules regarding school meals went into effect at the start of this school year.

The USDA also has released its proposed rules for other foods sold in school cafeterias, vending machines and snack bars, something Phillips said many districts have concerns about.

U46 has been gradually phasing in healthier snack foods and drinks over the past two or three years, she said. But many high schools have vending machines provided by those schools, not by the food and nutrition department, and those don’t have to follow the same rules, she said.

“If it’s going to be enforced, it needs to be enforced by everyone,” Phillips said. “You’re not going to change the habits of kids if they can go right down the hall and get something else.”

The U46 Board of Education will vote on the school lunch price increase at its next meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18, at the U46 Educational Services Center, 355 E. Chicago St.



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