Walcott To Fight Against School Lunch Increase
The chancellor backed a resolution calling for him to “engage the mayor and his budget staff” over a proposed increase in the price of a school lunch from $1.50 to $2.50 as part of a plan to close a budget gap by June 30.
“I support the resolution,” said Walcott at the December 20 PEP meeting before the resolution, introduced by Manhattan representative Patrick Sullivan, was approved by a vote of 11 to 1.
“(The Department of Education) should talk further with the city Office of Management and Budget and the City Council on this issue,” Walcott said.
Through its School Meals Program, the Department of Education (DOE) serves an average of 633,000 lunches each day, including 487,000 free lunches, 50,000 at reduced cost and 96,000 at full price.
The School Meals Program is the largest food service provider in the United States with 1,600 locations in New York City public elementary, middle, special education, high schools, charter and some non-public schools.
“When I first saw this (increase proposal), I was very alarmed,” said Queens PEP representative Dmytro Fedkowskyj. “Two-thirds of our schools are Title I schools.”
Title I schools are schools that have 40 percent or more of their students receiving free or reduced price lunches.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed several budget actions last November, including increasing school lunch prices, to help offset an expected gap at the end of this fiscal year. The proposed dollar increase would raise a total of $4.4 million. Currently, the city subsidizes $1.10 of the cost for school lunches to keep them affordable and the federal government reimburses school districts $2.72 for free meals, $2.32 for reduced price meals and $0.26 for full price lunches.
The net result of the price hike will be fewer students buying school lunches, said Sullivan.
“Whereas high school and many middle school students have the option of leaving school premises to purchase lunch outside of the cafeteria, the laws of supply and demand dictate that a price shock of 67 percent will depress demand for school lunch with many families turning to other, less nutritious alternatives,” said his resolution.
Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm responding on behalf of DOE, said, “We’ve been looking at (increasing prices on) school lunches because our costs have been going up but in light of the chancellor’s comments, we’re going to review the proposal.”
“This is a huge setback for our schools, 67 percent in one year is enormous and should never have been done,” said Fedkowskyj. “Costs do go up but if we can find city tax dollars to subsidize the cost, it would be better.”