Back to School: As Inflation Rises, So Does the Cost for School Lunches

KOKH - August 15, 2022 6:10 am

As inflation is forcing parents to spend more on school supplies this Back to School season, higher prices are hitting districts as well. Namely, the cost of food.

“We are not immune to inflation, just like nobody is,” said Fort Gibson Public Schools Superintendent Scott Farmer.

School officials tell us prices are up on everything from bread to poultry. Even things like plates and plasticware are costing districts more.

“We are seeing costs go up anywhere from 3% all the way up to 10%, depending on what good we’re purchasing,” said Farmer.

Higher prices mean districts like Fort Gibson are having to pull extra money from their general fund to offset the raised prices. But officials say there’s a problem with that too.

“Unfortunately, the legislature appropriated no more dollars, no new money, for public education in this budget cycle,” said Farmer. “So we don’t really have anything to lean on as far as state appropriations to help our families.”

And it isn’t just higher prices schools are dealing with. Supply chain issues have been a big problem across the nation. Those issues have made it tougher for districts to get some of the meals they’re used to having on the menu.

“Peanut butter sandwiches are, and I don’t want to name a particular brand, but those seem to be really hard to come by. And our students love them, so we make our own,” said Shonia Hall, Director of School Nutrition Services and Oklahoma City Public Schools.

So what does all of this mean for parents?

In Oklahoma City, Hill says all OKCPS students are eligible for free lunch through the Community Eligibility Provision. So their lunch prices shouldn’t rise.

But because of those supply chain issues, menus at schools might be a little less diverse.

“I got a menu magician right down the hall here that has certainly been busy,” said Hall. “There may be some menu repetition. Some of our families may have seen that last year as well.”

But at Fort Gibson, things might be a little different when it comes to lunch prices.

“Our hope is to not have to raise them this year. But it’s something we’re going to have to look at closely if we continue to see the trend that we saw through the summer,” said Farmer.

Superintendent Farmer’s advice for parents: Make sure you fill out the USDA’s child nutrition form for free or reduced lunch. he says even if you weren’t eligible in years past, the numbers change all the time, and you might qualify now.

Farmer is also pushing the legislature to add more school funding to help offset the cost of inflation.


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