School lunch price raised a quarter |

School lunch price raised a quarter

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSierra House Elementary school third-grader Jake Dillon enjoys a fruit salad school lunch Wednesday afternoon.

Starting next year, Lake Tahoe Unified School District elementary schools will raise the price of lunches from $1.25 to $1.50, the first increase in over 10 years.

The LTUSD Board of Education voted Wednesday to approve the increase. Board president Lennie Schwartz was absent during the vote.

The increase has been a long time coming, said Shelley Giannotta, director of purchasing and child nutrition.

“I’m trying to improve the quality of foods and keep all of our kitchen equipment in working order,” Giannotta said. “It’s just a necessary step that I need to take.”

Elementary schools like Sierra House have implemented menu changes this year on Giannotta’s request. Vegetarian meals, whole wheat breads and beef taco salad are examples of the additions.

“I’ve heard a lot of parents ask for more nutritious lunches and that would be part of my effort,” Giannotta said.

The increase will align LTUSD with 24 other California school districts that sell lunches for $1.50. The range starts from 75 cents a lunch to $2.50.

From July 2001 to April of this year, the district has bought $592,000 worth of food. A warehouse is kept stocked with $25,000 worth of nonperishable food for inventory.

About $1.2 million gathered from the sales of breakfasts and lunches and through government subsidies support the food program, which includes food for regular and summer school sessions and catering.

Students at Bijou and Al Tahoe Elementary receive free lunches since a majority, about 80 percent of children at each school, are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches per government standards. Districtwide, 44 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches.

Every month Giannotta meets with school food managers to determine the next month’s meal schedule. Recipes are derived from a government dietitian.

Miltaiye Vasquez sat at a table with his lunch of gravy and mash potatoes, corn kernels and fruit salad in front of him. He pounded his plastic utensil package on the hard wooden table to free his fork.

“It’s really good,” Vasquez, a second-grader at Sierra House, said about the school food. “And it’s good that I get chocolate milk every day. It’s always cold.”

Chocolate milk and pizza remain the favorites, according to a small poll taken at the table. With the price increase and menu changes, Giannotta doesn’t figure on erasing the two from the schools.

“I don’t plan to take pizza off the menu,” she said. “I’m sure some parents would like to, but the kids enjoy it.”

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