Due to increasing federal nutrition standards, Marysville students will be receiving healthier lunches next year, but the district will either have to raise lunch prices by 50 cents or find $156,300 in an already tight budget to pay for it.
"I want to feed kids the best nutritional lunches that we can at a reasonable price, but now we're going to be taking resources away from something else," said Chris Nation, school board president, during the August 6 school board meeting.
This year's budget has already been looked over to reduce costs and is down to a "bare bones minimum," he said.
However, lunch rates have been raised frequently in recent years and Nation hoped a rate increase would be a last resort.
Marysville School District contracts out its lunch services and received only one bid this year from a company that met the new standards.
"The days of high-volume pizza, hamburger, French fries - the days of sell kids what sells - are over," said district finance director Jim Baker, although Marysville schools had already been moving away from that model, he added.
With raised standards, increased costs are inevitable; however, no additional funding was provided by the federal government to meet these standards, said Baker. "This could be viewed as another federally unfunded mandate," he added.
The new standards for school lunches across the country were revealed this January by the Department of Agriculture.
"When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home," said First Lady Michelle Obama in a Department of Agriculture press release.
The biggest changes to the standards are requiring all whole-grain breads and doubling the fruit and vegetable requirement from a quarter of a cup to half a cup, said Baker.
There are also new limits to the calories, saturated fats, trans fats and sodium in student meals, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Nation worried about how some of these new standards will play out with the students. "That quarter cup of corn that you put on there often goes into the garbage can, so now it's going to be a half a cup of corn in there," he joked.
Baker said that some of the fruit and vegetables will likely end up in the garbage, but the general philosophy is that kids who want to eat healthy should have the option available to them.
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