School lunch prices will increase by 25 cents in the fall again at most Defense Department-run schools overseas, officials said, to cover rising costs and to comply with federal law.
Prices have been increasing gradually for Department of Defense Education Activity overseas school lunches; in the fall of 2017, they also increased by 25 cents.
Elementary school students will pay $3, and secondary school students will pay $3.25, according to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates the school lunch program on Army and Air Force bases overseas, as well as the program for DoDEA schools on Marine bases on Okinawa. Those prices also apply to school lunches at DoDEA schools on Navy bases overseas, according to the Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM).
According to NEXCOM, the price will remain at $3.50 for secondary school lunches on Guam.
Families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Meal Program won’t see a cost increase. Under federal guidelines, the reduced-price meal will remain at 40 cents.
Information was not immediately available about price changes at DoDEA schools on Iwakuni, where the Marine Corps Community Services operates the school lunch program.
DoDEA schools are participants in the Agriculture Department meal program. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires DoDEA schools to raise paid student lunch prices to a level comparable to the rates used for Agriculture Department reimbursement.
AAFES prices are about $2 below the actual cost of $5.25 per plate, according to an AAFES news release. DoDEA and the Agriculture Department reimburse the exchanges for direct costs of the school meal program that are above the price paid by the students. Each year, AAFES provides about 2.6 million lunches to children at 78 DoDEA schools in Europe and the Pacific.
The Agriculture Department sets nutritional guidelines for the student meals, and the exchanges’ dietitians set the nutritional standards in accordance with those guidelines. For example, in AAFES meals, menu items are never fried and meals must have zero grams of trans fat. All meals served must include a fruit or vegetable and must meet the nutrient standards for calories, sodium and fat for different age groups.
“NEXCOM provides school meals on a nonprofit, break-even basis, for the DoD Student Meal Program,” said Christina Kepa, NEXCOM Student Meal Program Specialist, in an announcement. “This price increase will allow us to continue to provide quality nutritional meals that contain whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat milk to students in DoDEA schools.”