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School district set to raise meal prices

Gresham-Barlow hasn't raised prices in six years

Students will be paying between 5 and 15 cents more for lunch and breakfast in Gresham-Barlow district schools next year.

The district's school board approved the increases - effective in September - at its Thursday, April 12, meeting. School officials said the increases were the first approved in six years and were needed to help cover rising food and labor costs, as well as finance equipment improvements and other budget items.

Students using the district's free or reduced-price meal program - which is funded through federal reimbursements - will not be affected by the increases, according to David A. Short, general manager for Sodexho, the Gresham-Barlow School District's nutrition services vendor. The Oregon Department of Education, not the district, determines reduced prices, he said.

Of the district's students, 59 percent participate in the meal program, Short said, and 37 percent receive free or reduced-price meals.

The price increases, by school types, break down as follows:

Breakfast:

Elementary schools will increase from 90 cents to 95 cents.

Middle and high schools will have no increase.

Lunch:

Elementary schools will increase from $1.65 to $1.75.

Middle schools will increase from $1.85 to $2.

High schools will increase from $2 to $2.10.

Short said that the district's meal prices fall within the lower mid-range of prices set at other districts in Oregon. He provided a chart that showed high school lunches cost as little as $1.25 to $1.50 in some districts to as high as $2.75 and even $3.25 in others.

Short said the price increases were justified by a variety of factors, including labor costs, which have increased 15 percent from 2002 to 2006, and food costs, which have risen 16 percent in the same period.

Sodexho has also upgraded its equipment at the majority of the district's schools over the past decade, he said. For example, the company recently replaced the oven at East Gresham Elementary School with a more energy-efficient model, he said.

'This will help us continue to stay proactive in rising costs,' he said of the price increases.

He added that school families generally pay for their children's meals by writing checks covering a week's worth of meals. Those checks are then deposited into each child's mealtime account. Next year, he said, the district is considering offering families the option of paying online.