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Bethlehem Central School District takes another look at lunch service

Board says no to price hike; new director to take over program in August

Bethlehem Central School District recently decided to opt out of the federal lunch program at the high school out of concerns that the stringent guidelines did not provide students with enough options.

Bethlehem Central School District recently decided to opt out of the federal lunch program at the high school out of concerns that the stringent guidelines did not provide students with enough options.

— A proposal to increase prices for elementary and middle school lunches was rejected by members of the Bethlehem Central Board of Education.

The proposal was made on Wednesday, June 18, by chief business and financial officer Judith Kehoe. As sales of lunches continue to decrease, the plan called for increasing middle school and elementary lunches by 25 cents and milk by 10 cents.

“We were originally figuring on a loss of $75,000 for the year, but we did a lot better then initially expected,” said Kehoe.

Figuring in the need to purchase some new kitchen equipment, the district’s food services program is expected to lose $63,000 this year. Although that numbers seem bad, Kehoe said it is a sharp improvement from the more than $100,000 loss from last year.

The money was made up mostly by changes made to the cafeteria at the high school.

The Bethlehem Central School District made the decision to opt out of the National School Lunch Program at the high school level after district administrators presented information showing a “steep decline” in the number of lunches purchased last school year. The new federal guidelines were said to be limiting the items that could be served and the portions sizes of food for the older students.

The amount of money the program made was increased by ramping up efforts at the high school snack bar, coffee shop and a la carte menus. The food services staff also began an after-school cafe where students could purchase paninis and other hot food items.

However, lunches sold at the middle and elementary schools continued to decrease, with many parents opting to pack their child’s lunch. Kehoe thought increasing the price might help offset the costs, but some board members felt the real problems began not with the federal regulations, but when the board increased lunch prices by $1 in 2010.

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