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Wauwatosa School Lunch Prices, Healthy Offerings Increasing Next Year

Changes are mandated by a federal law championed by the President Obama administration to improve children's health

Lunch prices in Wauwatosa schools will go up 10 cents per lunch next year due to federal guidelines mandating healthier offerings for schoolchildren, costing an estimated $68,897 more.

School lunch officials told the Wauwatosa School Board this week that they are mandated by a President Obama-championed law to increase the offerings of food such as fruits and vegetables and whole grains in student lunches next year. Wauwatosa schools serve some 531,000 lunches to 14 different schools.

  • Discuss: What changes would you like to see in school lunches? Tell us in the comments.

However, the officials said the extra cost is likely to be largely funded by grants. Director of Business Services John Mack pointed out that the district receives federal aid that it could be at risk of losing if it didn’t follow the requirements.

“We want to make sure kids are getting healthy meals,” said Brigid Benson, district manager of Sodexo, the third-party food service provider that works with Wauwatosa's school lunch program.

Benson said that the district’s participation in the National School Lunch program requires what is called “lunch equity pricing” — meaning that paid lunch prices must follow a complex formula when schools also offer free and paid lunches.  That formula means that schools are supposed to charge $2.51 per lunch, but the federal government advises that, if they aren’t, schools only raise the prices no more than 10 cents per year.

As a result, the price increases will be as follows next year:

  • Elementary school students will pay $2.35 per lunch, up from $2.25
  • Secondary school students will pay $2.45 per lunch, up from $2.35

Officials said that 60% of Wauwatosa school children receive free or reduced lunches.

They also said that the bulk of changes under the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed in 2010, will start taking place next year.

“This requires major changes to K-12 school meals for the first time in 30 years,” said Benson. “They will be more nutritious.”

Specifically, meals must have:

  • An increase in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Be 51% whole grain next year and 100% whole grain the year after that
  • Not allow 2% milk. (School officials say they have already made the change to 1% or skim milk).
  • Less sodium. Districts are being allowed a 10-year progressive decline in the rate of sodium, which must drop from 50% over 10 years.
  • Portable water must be accessible

Right now, some students don’t take any fruits or vegetables in their lunches. Next year, school officials will “be checking to see that each student leaves with fruit and vegetables on the plate,” Benson said.

Some specifics about the changes will include:

  • Currently, school lunches have ½ to 1 cup of fruit and vegetables combined.
  • Next year, they will have ¾ to 1 cup of vegetables plus ¾ to 1 cup of fruit.

The lunch officials presented case study menus to the board to show how the changes will affect costs. For example, this year, a student might be offered a fruit drink and slice of pizza with a vegetable. Next year, there will be more fruit or vegetable, and the pizza crust will have to be whole grain. The fruit drink won’t count as a full portion of fruit. Total additional cost, 24 cents per meal.

Another example: Hamburger buns would have to be whole grain, costing nearly 6 cents more.

jeff ircink June 16, 2012 at 02:40 AM
i suppose this will be blamed on Scott Walker, too. eh?
Dick at SCORE June 16, 2012 at 02:48 PM
"Officials said that 60% of Wauwatosa school children receive free or reduced lunches." I assume the writer meant "reduced price lunches", not "reduced lunches". Since when do we have a 60% poverty rate in Wauwatosa schools, even including students who may be open-enrolled from less affluent areas? Or are there some other determinants for awarding free lunches? Just asking.
Dick at SCORE June 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Of course, Jeff. And Scott will also get the blame for the added expense of trash cans that are now even fuller of rejected school lunches, (an extra 1/2 cup of fruit and vegetables per student can add up!) as the students reach to their backpacks for the chips and Oreos they managed to sneak from home. What social dictators like the Obamas and the (NY mayor Michael) Bloombergs never seem to understand is that if they don't have armed guards forcing the stuff down the kids' throats, the kids will eat it only if they want to. What is an intuitively obvious logical and observational conclusion seems to evade them.
Pudge June 16, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I'd like to see more microwaves in the lunch rooms so my kids can bring their own healthy lunch from home. With two microwaves for 500 students, there's not enough time to wait in line. There actually are parents who pack healthy lunches for their kids. We're responsible fir what our kids eat, not the government.
Jessica McBride June 16, 2012 at 07:23 PM
@Dicks Deli, I was shocked by that figure too, to be honest. Yes, I meant reduced price. ;)
jbw June 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Always did put bring in a healthy lunch from home myself, all the way through college. I guarantee you can get something much better from the supermarket than you can from commercial food service at the same price, in quality and nutrition. I used a thermos to keep food hot for lunch, if I wanted a hot lunch - they didn't have microwave ovens. I wouldn't recommend irradiating all your food if you're concerned about good health, anyway.
Kim June 16, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Wauwatosa does not have 60% of it's students on the free and reduced lunch count... Not even close. Call the district or the DPI for a more accurate number. What is shocking to me is that it is taking a federal mandate to ensure that our kids lunches are more healthy. A "fruit drink" being counted as fruit? As far as I know a "fruit drink" is sugar and water. Time to shop for a new food provider -- one that is ahead of the curve when it comes to our children's health and eating habits.
Jessica McBride June 17, 2012 at 02:55 AM
That's the percentage that officials who run the school lunch program told the School Board this week. And they used it to predict the cost of the new changes. The percentage surprised me too.
Kelly Guran June 17, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I would like to see organic milk offered as an option and a Farm-to-Table program implemented. We need to teach our kids about the importance of local and organic foods.
Michelle June 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
It's unfortunate that we will have to pay more to have a healthy lunch. That should be a given. Frankly, lunch is brought from home because the options are TERRIBLE... processed, empty calories!! I don't want to see the concentration on calories, but the focus to be ingredients (something that is hard to come by)... whole-grains, no artificial ingredients. What is sad is that one of the entrees at our school is a soft pretzel with sugar and color-laden yogurt, really?! That's what Sodexo considers nutritious? More whole food and veggies please, we live in a farming state... it shouldn’t be that hard (as Kelly mentioned above).
Jennifer Lautz June 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
As of October 2011, Wauwatosa had 24.3% participation in free or reduced-price lunches, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Where did the 60% number come from? http://dpi.wi.gov/fns/progstat.html
Dick at SCORE June 19, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Jessica McB....Looks like an invitation to do some real digging. Go ahead, commit a random act of journalism; find, and let us know the real numbers and the facts and/or fiction behind the assertions of the officials' 60% and the DPI's 24%.
Jennifer Lautz June 19, 2012 at 10:52 PM
After thinking about it, did the "officials" mean that 60% of Wauwatosa students WHO BUY SCHOOL LUNCHES are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches? That would make more sense.
Jim Price June 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Looking into it and will report back soon, but I suspect that Jennifer is on the right track. It's most likely that just 24% of all students enrolled in Tosa schools qualify and avail themselves of free or reduced price lunches (per DPI), but only 60% of those enrolled who do in fact buy school lunches qualify for free or reduced price meals (others bring their own, presumably, or don't eat lunch, perhaps). That would mean a very substantial portion of students don't eat school-provided lunches regularly (whether they would qualify or not), and that only 40% of those who do fail to qualify under free/reduced guidelines. And, by the way, the bar is not that high for reduced-price meals. It's something like 2 1/2 times the federal poverty line, so you don't have to be really poor-poor to get the discount. But I know that's not good enough for you, and not good enough for Patch, either. I will find out tomorrow what the true skinny is, and I'll let you know. (I was on vacation last week, but I do trust that Jessica heard what she reported, vis a vis the 60% figure.)
Dick at SCORE June 20, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Thanks, Jim; looking forward to your results.

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