Parents pinched by costly school lunches

Parcel taxes, transportation costs, after-school programs — now parents can add lunch prices to the growing list of items taking more money out of their pockets in exchange for their kids’ public-school education.

At least seven San Mateo County school districts have already increased school-lunch prices this year, with at least one more district looking to follow suit. Furthermore, the San Francisco Unified School District will be raising daily lunch prices from $3 to $3.25 next fall, the same time the South San Francisco Unified School District will also increase per-day prices for lunches from $2.50 to $3.50.

School district officials said rising costs of basic foods around the country have forced them to hike fees. The cost to put food on students’ plates comes out of districts’ general budgets and the alternative to raising lunch prices would be cutting services elsewhere, such as textbooks, materials and teachers’ salaries.

Some Peninsula parents said the increases will be a tough pill to swallow, as they are already dealing with high gas prices, bus fees and after-school program rates.

“There are people wondering, ‘What will I do? My salary didn’t increase, I didn’t get a cost-of-living adjustment at work and now I have to pay more for my kids’ school lunch,’” said LaSchaunda Smaw, who has three kids at Jefferson Elementary School District campuses.

The district approved a hike from $1.75 to $2.25 per lunch this year only to request another increase to $3 at the start of the school year because the district was paying $2.98 per meal.

Many parents said they opposed the sudden sharp increase, and more than 100 signed a petition opposing it. The Board of Education, however, denied the request this week and the district will have to wait until next fall for any further increases to take effect.

Still, even with the 50-cent increase next year, parents with three kids in the district will be paying $7.50 per week more than this year for their kids to eat lunch.

Smaw added that fewer parents now qualify for vouchers for free or reduced-price lunches. Despite that, more parents have applied this year for the vouchers, said Irene Sutter, Jefferson’s general manager of food services.

“People are losing their homes; it’s a bad time,” Sutter said. “It’s the same story everywhere.”

Even those who qualify for free meals at lunch may be going home and not having dinner, said Lynn Crocker, spokeswoman for the Second Harvest Food Bank. Residents in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties who need help paying for food have increased 8 percent over last year, she said.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Local school lunch prices

Bayshore Elementary

2007-08 price: $2.25

2008-09 price: $2.50

Brisbane Elementary

2007-08 price: $2.50

2008-09 price: $2.75

Burlingame Elementary

2007-08 price: $3.50

2008-09 price: $3.75

Jefferson Elementary

2007-08 price: $1.75

2008-09 price: $2.25

Millbrae Elementary

2007-08 price: $2.50

2008-09 price: $2.75

Pacifica

2007-08 price: $2.50-$2.75

2008-09 price: $2.60-$2.85

Redwood City Elementary

2007-08 price: $1.75

2008-09 price: (considering) $2.50

San Bruno Park

2007-08 price: $2.25

2008-09 price: $2.50

San Francisco Unified

2007-08 price: $3.00

2008-09 price: (2009-10) $3.25

San Mateo-Foster City

2007-08 price: $2.25-$2.75

2008-09 price: $2.50-$3.00

South San Francisco Unified

2007-08 price: $2.50

2008-09 price: (2009-10) $3.00-$3.50

Source: Jefferson Elementary School District survey

 

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