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Federal regulations pushing up price of school lunch

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SALT LAKE CITY — Kids across Utah have got their backpacks on, books in hand, and are heading off to school. But if back-to-school includes hot lunch for your children this year, you may be paying more.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act is a new federal law that requires schools to provide healthier lunches for students. It includes a number of guidelines to combat childhood obesity, such as smaller portions; fewer desserts; and more whole grains, fruits and veggies.

"I've even come to school to eat with my daughter here and there, and it's amazing the choices," said Sherry Frost, whose daughter attends Foxboro Elementary School in Farmington.


"The different choices (are) so much healthier now than when I went to school," she added.

But that food is a bit more expensive than what used to fill the lunch trays, and the cost is being passed on to parents.

"Parents kind of know that, every so often, lunch prices increase," said Kevin Prusse, principal at Foxboro Elementary.

Also part of the law: Schools must match the price students pay to the amount reimbursed by the federal government for free and reduced lunches.

"They're asking us to raise our lunch prices, for a paid student, that equal what it would cost for a few students' meals," said Kelly Orton, director of child nutrition at the Salt Lake School District.

That means elementary school students in Orton's district are seeing a 65-cent increase to their lunch price; for middle school students it's a bit higher, at 80 cents more.

Davis and Granite school districts also raised their prices.

"(It's the) first time the district has increased lunch prices in five to seven years," Prusse said.

Other districts across the state have chosen to handle the added cost in increments, so you won't see a big jump right away. But it still costs more.

"Fifteen cents, maybe over a long time, can add up for a family — especially with the economy right now," Frost said.

One of the most controversial aspects about the changes in school lunch has been whether the government can control a hot lunch staple: pizza. For now, pizza is considered a vegetable, since it has tomato sauce, but members of Congress are working to change that.


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Nadine Wimmer


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