TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL) – Some local school systems are planning to raise their price per school lunch anywhere from ten cents to a quarter more per meal this fall.
Kingsport City Schools Nutrition Supervisor Jennifer Walker said their school system will be among those with a price increase and that’s due to food and labor costs increasing.
Unfortunately, the cost increase also comes just as the federal program making school food free during the pandemic for all kids expires as well.
“The USDA is closing the door on that,” Walker said. “It’s been really nice for many reasons, and we hoped to be able to continue.”
Walker said since the last time parents have paid for school lunches there’ve been a lot of changes.
“What we’re noticing is an average of a 10% food increase, if not more,” Walker said. “Our chicken nugget went up 25%.”
Walker said on Tuesday, Kingsport City Schools also approved a 10% pay increase to help retain staff.
“Our food and labor expenses that are going up over 10%,” Walker said. “We are raising, it’s about an average of a 6% increase, which doesn’t even match that, but we’re hoping to offset that with federal reimbursements.”
Previously, lunch for a high school student cost $2.75 a day, but that will go up to $3.00. For the 178 days school is in session, the total is $534. So, parents will pay $44.50 more this coming school year than in previous years.
Kingsport City Schools is not alone, other school districts around the region are also raising prices.
Washington County Schools plans to go up 10 cents per lunch for all students, and Johnson City Schools plans a 10 to 15 cent increase for middle and high school student lunches.
“It was unfortunate to have to raise our meal prices based on the fact that food and labor costs are increasing,” Walker said. “You never want to have to do that, but it just seems to be what’s happening in our economy right now.”
Free and reduced lunches will still be available for eligible children.
Walker said an application for the coming school year can be filled out in July.