Olentangy Local School District students will need to drop an extra dime at lunchtime next school year.
School board members in May unanimously voted to increase prices for lunches by 10 cents at district buildings. Lunches will cost $2.50 at elementary schools, $2.75 at middle schools and $3 at high schools.
Bethany Lenko, the district's food service supervisor, said as in years past, the change stems from federal guidelines. She said the new prices keep the district in conformance with the United States Department of Agriculture's rules for participating in the National School Lunch Program, which reimburses districts that provide free and reduced-price lunches to qualifying students.
"What we charge a paying student has to be equal to or greater than the reimbursement we receive for a free student meal," she said.
Ahead of the start of the 2016-17 school year, the district increased the price of lunches at its buildings by 15 cents per meal. Lenko said the reimbursement amount changes every year, leading districts that receive funding through the program to review and change prices annually.
"We're basically playing catch-up every year," she said. "Even with that increase, we're still very competitive when you compare us to surrounding school districts."
Lenko said the prices may not be the only aspects of the schools' lunches to change. She said the administration of President Donald Trump is expected to relax certain nutritional requirements for school lunches.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in May announced his department's intention to reduce restrictions on dairy products, non-whole grains and salt.
"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Perdue said in a statement in May. "If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition -- thus undermining the intent of the program."
Lenko said the proposed changes may allow the district to serve some flavored milks with 1 percent milk fat and products made with non-whole grains. She said the district does not expect to sell food with increased sodium levels, despite the potential rule change.
"We're going to probably put a hold on where we're at from a sodium perspective," she said.
Lenko said the district will look for guidance from the state before making any changes.