School food price may rise

To meet the challenge of implementing federal nutrition mandates, Fort Dodge Community School District will have to increase breakfast and lunch prices by 10 cents.

Brandon Hansel, FDCSD director of financial services, said the profit margin for the program has decreased.

“We have the new federal requirements. Those requirements for us translate into higher food costs and production costs,” Hansel said. “Conversely, it’s not generating any additional revenue, therefore it’s putting stress on our financial situation and compressing our profitability and our margins.”

Over the last three years, Hansel said, food service profits have decreased by a total of $60,000.

“We’re at the point now where we want to recognize that trend, and we need to make some adjustments in terms of our pricing structure to hopefully be able to maintain profitability so we can replace equipment and that kind of thing,” he said.

The 10-cent increase will be brought before the FDCSD school board Monday for approval. The fees would take effect for the 2013-14 school year in all categories, except for the adult breakfast price, which will increase 30 cents.

“This is because we’re required to start serving fruit as a part of that, which adds cost to that meal, so we need to recover that value,” Hansel said.

If approved by the school board, K-12 student daily breakfast would be $1.50 and student daily lunch would be $2.25.

Brenda Janssen, FDCSD director of food services, said meeting the nationwide nutritional mandates has been a challenge.

“We have to serve half a cup of legumes once a week,” Janssen said. “And then they also took our vegetables and put them into subcategories, so now we have to serve leafy green vegetables, we have to serve an orange vegetable once a week.”

Students are required to have a total of half a cup of fruit and/or vegetable on their tray. Condiments have been removed.

A challenge, Janssen said, is communicating with district parents and students what a student needs in order for the meal to be reimbursable.

“The general public has no idea the criteria we need to meet for that reimbursable meal,” she said.

Some students, Janssen said, are simply throwing away their fruits and vegetables.

“We’re doing it less now than what we were at the beginning of the school year, because they didn’t understand what they needed,” she said. “When we put it out at the middle school and senior high level, they helped themselves. They could take as much as they want. And I think they weren’t quite sure what they should have to take or not take, so they were probably taking some of everything and what they didn’t want they threw away.”

Foods costs have increased. For instance, canned fruit has increased by $12 per case from last year.

Janssen said as students move through the grade levels and become more familiar with the system, they will be more readily accepting of the requirements.

“It’s my thought, as well as all of us who do school nutrition,” she said. “We want to offer those fresh fruits and vegetables at the elementary level so as they go through the school system they’ll get used to eating that way.”

The students, ultimately, benefit from having more nutritional offerings, Janssen said.

“If they take it and throw it away, we’re pedaling backwards,” she said. “Our toughest customers are the ones at the senior high, trying to get them to come around that it’s okay to eat fresh fruits and vegetables versus going to McDonald’s for French fries.”

The school district’s food service program is not operating at a loss, Hansel emphasized.

“We’re being proactive,” he said. “That’s why we want to show the board this is a trend we’ve seen and now is the time to make adjustments to keep our food service program in a stable position.”

No action has been taken yet to increase lunch prices.