St. Louis Park School District offers free summer meals, but will increase lunch prices next school year

Lunch prices at St. Louis Park schools will increase during the next school year, but the district is providing free breakfasts and lunches for anyone ages birth to 18 years old during the summer.

“The absolutely most exciting thing that we have going on this summer is we are going to have a free breakfast and lunch program at three sites this summer,” said Lisa Greene, director of St. Louis Park Community Education.

The district will provide free breakfast 7:45-8:15 a.m. and free lunch 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday now through Thursday, June 29, at Aquila Elementary School, 8500 W. 31st St.

The district will provide free breakfast 7:50-8:15 a.m. and free lunch 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday through June 29 at St. Louis Park Middle School, 2025 Texas Ave. S.

A longer free breakfast and lunch program is underway at Central Community Center, 6300 Walker St. The district offers free breakfast 7:30-8:45 a.m. and free lunch 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday through Friday, Aug. 25, at the center.

The new endeavor is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. The meals meet the USDA’s nutritional standards.

The meals at Aquila Elementary School line up with a Summer Learning Academy at the school. Similarly, the middle school meals will coincide with a targeted services summer program.

The meals at Central Community Center match up with the dates for community education’s Kids’ Place child care service.

However, Greene said, “It’s not just for the students who are in those programs.”

She added, “Any child under the age of 18 can come to one of our sites while they’re open and have free breakfast or lunch.”

She also said that participants can obtain the meals at no cost regardless of their family income. The federal government mandates that participating districts provide meals to anyone who meets the age requirement.

“If you offer it, it’s free to everyone,” Green said.

This is the first time the district has been able to qualify for the program, Director of Business Services Sandy Salin said. She cautioned that the criteria may change in the future.

“We may qualify for it now, but we may not be able to qualify another time,” Salin said.

Meal costs to increase next school year

Separately, the school board voted May 22 to approve a 15-cent increase in the price of lunches at district schools and a 5-cent increase in the cost of breakfasts during the 2017-18 school year.

“The cost of the program is increasing,” Salin said.

The district has not increased prices for several years.

“As we’re doing our budgets for the school nutrition program, by putting these numbers in, it brings us to more of a break-even point,” Salin said. “We do realize there is a need for price increases to offset the expenditure increases that are coming in for the next year.”

The district’s fund balance decreased considerably in 2016, Salin added.

“We do need some increase in these prices in order to maintain and sustain what we are doing,” she said.

Board Chair Jim Yarosh noted that the district seeks to improve kitchens in its schools and add cooking made from scratch. Adding more scratch cooking may be more expensive but may increase student participation in the district’s meal offerings, he said.

Yarosh said the district needs a plan for the future relating to its meals. The district should consider the impact more meals from scratch have had on prices in the Hopkins School District and elsewhere, he said.

Salin said a district staff member has been discussing the issue with the personnel at the Hopkins and Eden Prairie districts. Salin indicated that the other districts have had good results relating to student participation in meals and relating to prices.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]