NY1 has learned that the Department of Education is telling schools Wednesday that it's hiking the price of school lunch 17 percent, from $1.50 to $1.75 per student per day, but while the price is going up for many families, the city has decided not to charge other families at all. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
For many families, the price of school lunch is going up for the first time in a decade. For others, the city has decided to stop charging them at all.
Students who qualify based on family income for reduced-price lunch will join those eating for free, but the students who pay full price will now pay more.
"This is a mixed decision, the fact that they are reducing prices for people at the edge of poverty while increasing prices for people slightly above that," said Joel Berg of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
Fewer than one-quarter of city students will have to pay, but for those who do, 25 cents more each day will add up to $45 more each year. The Department of Education estimates all those additional quarters will bring in a million dollars.
Kids will get free lunch if their family's annual income is less than $43,600 for a family of four.
In a letter to be sent home on the first day of school, the DOE writes, "We realize that the increase in the cost of lunch for our students who already pay full price will affect many families. We have carefully reviewed our costs and compared them to services provided in other districts; $1.75 for lunch is still well below the amount that other large school districts throughout the country charge and continues to remain below the amount the DOE spends."
The department blames increases in the cost of food and labor, as well as new federal guidelines that increase portion size.
The city says it's also trying to use more fresh, healthy ingredients, which are costly.
Some advocates, though, aren't convinced.
"Schools meals are one of the most important educational tools, nutritional tools and health tools our schools have," Berg said. "We shouldn't be balancing the budgets on the back of working families."
The price changes go into effect September 30, giving schools a few weeks to collect new family-income forms from 1.1 million students.
Applications can be obtained at city schools or online at nyc.applyforlunch.com.