As a mother of three, Brittany Romeo knows what it means to be busy, which is why her 7-year-old son, Blake, eats school lunches.
Between homework and extracurricular activities, making school lunches gets squeezed out of the picture. It's just easier to have him eat lunch at school, she said.
“That's basically more convenient,” said the 31-year-old stay-at-home mother.
That convenience will cost a little bit more this coming school year as Tyler ISD raises its price for elementary school lunches to $1.60, a 10-cent increase.
This is the first time in 10 years the school district has raised the price of elementary school lunches, according to district officials. And the change reflects a federal requirement aimed at creating equity in school lunch pricing.
That was the first time those prices had been increased in nine years, and they will remain unchanged this coming year, food service director Victor Olivares said.
Olivares said the elementary school lunch price increase will affect only the students paying full price for their school lunches. That's on average more than 2,500 students per day based on 2011-12 numbers, he said. The more than 12,700 TISD students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches will not see a change in their lunch prices.
The change was among many called for under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which set policy for the National School Lunch Program along with several other child nutrition programs.
Olivares said some school district's opted to increase all paid lunches to this price upon the passage of the law in 2010, but TISD chose not to. However, the federal policy requires school districts to gradually increase the paid lunch prices until it reaches this amount.
Olivares said TISD put this increase on elementary school lunches this year since TISD raised middle and high school lunch prices last year.
“The only thing I hope it doesn't do is increase the number of meals brought from home,” he said.
Andy Woods parent Tonya McClelland said she is comfortable with the increase.
She said one of the primary concerns she has related to the school lunch program relates to the payment method, something she has had problems with in the past year.
Apart from the price change, students might also notice some slight menu changes next year.
Students will now have to take a fruit or vegetable as part of their lunch for it to qualify as a federally reimbursed lunch, Olivares said. This past year, they did not have to.
School districts also will have to offer a certain amount of fruits and vegetables in certain categories such as dark green (spinach, broccoli etc.); red/orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes etc.); and pea/bean/legume (pinto beans, baked beans etc.), among others.
Olivares said TISD already was offering fresh fruit and whole wheat bread, among other nutritious options. He said the district might introduce some more vegetables as a result of the policy change.
He said the hope is that students will try the foods and like them, but he said he has some concerns that the district will see more food waste if students don't like all the fruits and vegetables they are required to get.