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General Brown lunches to increase 20 cents, to $2.05 in late February

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DEXTER — General Brown Central School District students will pay 20 cents more for lunch, effective Feb. 25.

That will make the 2012-13 school year’s increase 30 cents, as the board voted in August to increase the price by 10 cents, from $1.75 to $1.85.

The board approved the increase 7-0 during its monthly meeting Monday. The decision was not taken lightly, as board members debated what to do after hearing Food Service Director James P. Nevers’s first-quarter report.

“We know the government is pushing us to $2.59 — they’re forcing that price,” board member Michael E. Kucharski said. “Either we take money from someplace else to stop the bleeding or you increase the price.”

Mr. Nevers recommended the 20-cent increase after he said the district needs $2.05 per lunch now to break even.

Costs are increasing, he said, particularly with fresh produce because of this year’s drought.

“Fruit has skyrocketed in price,” Mr. Nevers said. “Apple is basically the cheapest fresh fruit we can get, and they’re 33 cents apiece. The same items are costing us more — about 19 cents per meal.”

The $2.59 price is what the government says the district should be charging for lunch, he said, but a 74-cent increase would be too much in a year. The other challenge to school lunches, he said, is the decline in lunches purchased. Through the first quarter of the school year, 45,660 lunches were purchased, down from 53,607 in the same period of 2011-12.

Because of changes in menu options, students have lost some interest in purchasing lunches, Mr. Nevers said.

“We’re making them take things they don’t want,” he said. “They just don’t like the taste. As an example, fries are hard to eat without salt, and if I give them two packets of ketchup, it stays under the sodium levels, but if I give them three packets, the level is too high.”

Mr. Nevers said that example also takes into account having a whole-wheat breaded chicken patty and a bun.

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture made changes to control the amount of meat, grains, sodium and calories, Mr. Nevers said, recent easing of the regulations let districts add only more meat and grain, not sodium or calories.

“Good luck with that,” he said.

Board member Cynthia L. Humerickhouse suggested more information about district meals be posted on the district website for parents to mull over.

As unfortunate a reality as it may be, Superintendant Stephan J. Vigliotti Sr. said, the district probably will “be having the same conversation in July next year.”

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