Wallets feeling economic crunch at lunch

Trina Herrera, who has two children at Daniel Webster Elementary School in Daly City, is feeling the economic crunch: Not only is she spending more on gas and food, she’ll have to pay more for school lunches, too.

Jefferson Elementary School District is raising the price of school lunches by 50 cents starting next year to cope with the surge in food and gas prices. At the district’s 14 schools lunch will now cost $2.25, or $11.25 a week. Jefferson Unified High School District also is considering increasing the price of school lunches for the next school year from $3 to $3.50 due to rising food costs.

“That’s hard to do because when you have two kids, you’ve got to double everything,” said Herrera, who has also been receiving fewer tips at her job as a restaurant waitress. “I haven’t seen it this bad in a long time. But it’s not just us, everybody is feeling the crunch.”

Herrera said she understands the district had no choice but to raise the price of lunch. The Labor Department announced Wednesday that food prices have gone up 0.9 percent in April, the biggest one-month jump since a 1.5 percent increase in January 1990. The price of some basic staples such as milk, bread and butter, has seen dramatic increases.

To make matters even worse for the school district, companies that deliver the food to the district have been adding a gas surcharge on top of the hiked food costs, said Irene Sutter, the district’s general manager of food services. More expensive gas also affects the district directly because all the food is prepared in the central kitchen and then delivered by trucks to 14 schools throughout Daly City.

District staff originally proposed to raise the price by 75 cents, but the Board of Education decided a 50-cent hike is all the parents can take.

“My concern was that it would be too big of a jump right away,” said boardmember Adam Duran, who has two children in the school district.

The district hasn’t raised the price of lunch since 2004. The new price brings the Daly City elementary and middle schools closer to what the surrounding school districts charge: Lunches cost $2.50 in Millbrae, Pacifica and South San Francisco. Yet the 50-cent increase will not be enough to cover the cost of making lunch, Sutter said.

“It will not cover the costs of the meals, but the board felt it was important to raise it moderately,” said Interim Superintendent John McIntosh.

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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