The Board of Education on Tuesday endorsed a plan to promote healthier school meals starting next year -- along with slightly heftier prices.
Joann D. Fitzpatrick, manager of food and nutrition services, presented to the board a plan to be phased in over the next few years to reflect new federal guidelines that will include meals with more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on school lunch menus.
"As always, our goal is to have healthy food choices for our students and also be sensitive to their preferences when we do provide these items," she said, adding that school kitchens also have had equipment upgrades, such as new computers for online payment.
"This allows parents and guardians to pre-pay for meals and monitor their children's accounts," Fitzpatrick said.
The new plan will require school lunches to include, among other things, at least three-quarters to one cup of vegetables and a half to full cup of fruit and an ounce of meat.
The plan, effective July 1, follows the federal government's revision of the lunch standards for the first time in 15 years. I also requires that lunches have at least an ounce of whole grains starting in 2014.
In addition, high school lunches must have at least 750 to 850 calories, middle school lunches need to have 600 to 700 calories and elementary school lunches must have 550 to 650 calories.
The plan also requires that breakfasts include at least one cup of fruit daily and at least an ounce of grains.
School board members commended the plan's promotion of healthy eating, but expressed concern that not enough students may buy lunch because of long lines, particularly at Sherman Elementary School, where one of its two lines lacks a cashier.
"It clearly has an impact on whether or not a student is going to make a purchase if they feel the line is prohibitive," board member Sue Brand said.
Board member John Convertito suggested that the school district offer courses on teaching students how to prepare and cook nutritious meals.
Prices for lunch will rise 25-cents a day at all of the town's schools in the next academic year.
The daily price for elementary school lunch will rise to $2.45 from the current $2.20; at the middle schools the price will increase to $2.50 from $2.25, and the price for high school lunch will rise to $2.55 from $2.30.
The price for breakfast, available at McKinley Elementary School since 2005, will increase to $1.50 from $1.35 and the price of "deluxe meals," available at the middle and high schools since 2006, will increase to $3.60 from $3.50, according to a school district document.
Other food price increases include raising lunches for adult employees to $5 from $4.75, while reduced-price lunches and breakfasts and milk remain the same as in previous years.
With the latest increases, lunch prices in Fairfield schools have gone up at least 50 percent since 2001, when lunch cost $1.60 at the elementary schools, $1.65 at the middle schools and $1.70 at the high schools, the document shows.
Adult lunch has seen the largest spike since 2001, having gone up 67 percent from $3.
The prices for lunch at the elementary, middle and high schools and the "deluxe meals" had declined 10 cents for the school years in 2009 and 2010 and then rose 10 cents for the 2011-12 school year.
The Board of Education on Tuesday also approved a 2 percent increase in next year's salaries for the district's 78 food-service workers.
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