In the district’s first price increase since 1996, children in Columbia’s public schools will pay more for meals starting next fall.
To help cover an expected increase in expenses of nearly $295,000, the district will generate about $224,000 by way of an 11 percent elementary increase, 9 percent secondary increase and 18 percent adult increase in meal prices. The Columbia Public Schools will serve about 1.5 million meals this year.
Pat Brooks, director of Columbia Public Schools food services, updated members of the Board of Education on the changes at the Thursday morning board meeting.
Projected improvements, higher food costs and increases in staff salaries and benefits all contribute to the increase. Students buying fewer items from the ala carte option also has resulted in a loss, Brooks said.
Food services plans to switch to 100 percent whole wheat bread in all schools. Right now, only the elementary schools offer strictly whole wheat bread. Schools also will change to calcium–fortified orange juice and offer a wider variety of fruits and vegetables in all schools. This accounts for a 3 percent increase in costs, about $63,000.
According to the food services department, there has been an increase of about 3 percent in food costs every year since 1996. Brooks said changes to meals and to the ala carte options are part of a general push for a higher level of nutrition.
“We want the most we possibly can for the students,” Brooks said. “We want healthy kids so they can learn.”
A projected $44,000 loss is attributed to the drop-off in students buying ala carte items, which makes up a significant portion of next year’s expenses. Brooks said the decline in participation can be attributed to the change in the food options.
“We’ve taken away a lot of the choices they had before,” Brooks said. “Changes take a minute for kiddos to get used to.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, board members voted to approve the $1.09 million bid by Sircal Contracting Inc. for a variety of 2004 summer additions and renovations. Funds for these projects were approved by voters in an April 2002 bond issue. Computer labs at Benton and Grant Elementary Schools, as well as work on the Russell Boulevard Elementary School media center, will take up most of the funding.
Deputy Superintendent Jacques Cowherd told the board that the work is expected to be completed this summer.
“The contractor should have the documents ready to go (Thursday) afternoon,” Cowherd said.
The board also approved Miracle Recreation’s $13,030 bid for the West Boulevard Elementary School playground equipment. Miracle Recreation was the only vendor able to meet all specifications set by the building committee. A $15,000 community block development grant from City of Columbia will cover the cost of the equipment.