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Franklin Regional to hike lunch prices

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Lunch prices likely will rise for Franklin Regional students this fall.

District officials recommended a 10-cent increase to lunch prices for the 2014-15 school year. That would raise lunch costs to $2.15 for elementary students and $2.45 for middle and high school students. Breakfast prices will remain at $1.15 and $1.25 for elementary and secondary, respectively.

The school board is expected to vote on the hike Monday.

“Our goal is to try and keep our lunch prices as close to the reimbursable rate as possible,” said Mary Catherine Reljac, assistant superintendent for the district. “We're trying to close the gap between the cost of the meal and what we are reimbursed for.”

Like others across the nation, the district and its food-service provider, Metz and Associates, are dealing with changes to the National School Lunch Program. That program, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reimburses districts between 28 cents and $2.98 for each lunch served, based on student economic need, if the district meets criteria through the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Any food sold in schools must meet the following criteria: be a “whole grain-rich” grain product; have, as the first ingredient, a fruit, vegetable, dairy product or protein; be a combination food that contains at least one quarter of a cup of fruits or vegetables; or contain 10 percent of the daily value of one of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.

This school year, districts also are required to lower the amount of sodium in a la carte items. Reljac said there have been challenges in meeting some of the requirements.

“One of the biggest challenges is that the suppliers of the food products have not yet adjusted the products available,” she said. “It's challenging to meet the requirements.”

Those requirements are so challenging that South Fayette School District last month opted out of the National School Lunch Program and no longer will receive reimbursements. Officials there said they no longer could offer students a full range of food options and still meet federal guidelines.

At Franklin Regional, students who are eligible for reduced lunch prices receive lunch for free, thanks to a donation program called Fund-A-Meal. Community members and the teachers union make monthly donations to the fund, which benefits 2 percent of Franklin Regional students. An additional 12 percent receive free lunches under the federal program. Statewide, 38 percent of students are eligible for free lunches and 6 percent of students are eligible for reduced lunch prices.

Daily lunch participation rates weren't available for the 2013-14 school year. School resumes on Aug. 25.

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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