School lunch prices will rise 10 cents

The Rappahannock County School Board took a break from budgetary matters to discuss the impending (government mandated) rise in school meal prices at its monthly meeting last Tuesday night (April 9).

Trista Grigsby, nutrition director for Rappahannock County Public Schools, gave a presentation outlining her recommendations to the board for 2013-2014 – a 10-cent price increase in the cost of elementary and high school breakfasts, a 15-cent increase to lunch prices and a 25-cent increase to the adult breakfast and lunch prices.

Grigsby said there would be no change in the cost of the division’s reduced-price meals.

The plan would raise breakfast prices to $1.10 at the elementary school, $1.60 at RCHS and $2 for the adult version; lunch prices would rise to $1.75 at RCES, $2.25 at RCHS and $3 for adults.

The price changes are mandated by a federal program known as Paid Lunch Equity (PLE), an annual calculation designed to ensure there are sufficient non-federal funds in the nonprofit school food service account.

As Grigsby pointed out, Rappahannock should have increased the food prices by five cents last year, but chose to wait another year, thus the 10-cent increase this year.

The initial 10-cent raise is mandated by PLE, but the additional increases for high school and adult meals were Grigsby’s recommendation to help return some funds to the schools’ food programs, which have seen users decline this year.

From August 2011 to March 2012, RCPS served 72,780 lunches and 32,707 breakfasts to its student body. During the same period this year, she said, only 62,236 lunches were served, some 10,000 fewer than during the 2011-2012 school year. Breakfast sales did increase slightly, she said, with 33,350 served as of March 2013.

Those trends, Grigsby said, are in line with the rest of the nation, which has seen the number of students buying school lunches decline somewhat over the past two years. Nonetheless, 32 million children eat school lunches every day (20 million of whom are qualified as “low-income), while 11.7 million eat breakfast (9.8 million are low-income).

The school breakfasts come with a protein, a grain, fruit (or fruit juice) and milk, though Grigsby said next year it will be a choice between a protein or a grain – not both. “That’s a lot of stuff for just a dollar,” Grigsby said.

The board accepted Grigsby’s pricing recommendations and unanimously approved the increase, 5-0.

The board also voted to approve a recommendation from the curriculum review team (CRT) changing the high school’s currently offered public speaking class to a speech and rhetoric course.

The CRT’s letter of recommendation described the transition as “much better suited to serve the needs of [the] upper-class students as an English elective.” Speech and rhetoric adds “college preparatory oral language and logic skills” to the public speaking curriculum.

The new rhetoric class, scheduled to start in the fall, will be taught by RCHS English teacher Alexander Coffroth, and, according to the syllabus, would spend time on such classical philosophers as Plato, Aristotle and Descartes before moving on to logical fallacies and an in-class debate.

Praising the increased academic rigor presented by the course syllabus, the board unanimously approved the course change.