Slight rise in prices for Ithaca City School District lunches this year

All school lunches in the Ithaca City School District will be a little more expensive this school year, and the district says it’s “due to new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines.”

Middle school lunchroom photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks, used under Creative Commons license.

Full-price lunch prices will go up by 5 cents across the board, with elementary school lunch now $2.60, middle school lunch now $2.85, and high school lunch now $3.10. Breakfast prices remain the same as last year, at $1.50, $1.75, and $2.00, respectively, and milk costs 75 cents at all schools.

Denise Agati, director of the ICSD Child Nutrition Program, says the price of reduced-price meals will remain at 25 cents. Eligible families, such as those who receive assistance from state or federal agencies, can apply for free or reduced-price meals using an application the district has sent to families they believe are eligible based on a list from New York State. The application is also available on the ICSD web site. “If you qualify for breakfast, you also qualify for lunch,” Agati tells us.

“The guidelines are a good thing for our students’ nutrition,” Agati says, “but the changes do incur a rising cost to the program.” The new guidelines “mandate that students be charged comparable cost to State and Federal Reimbursements,” and “incur increased cost because of the finalized ‘Reauthorization Act,’” according to ICSD officials.

Students use a debit account to pay for meals. Families can deposit money in the kids’ accounts in cash, check, or online by credit card via the PaySchools system. Under ICSD policy, district staff never address a negative balance with a child directly.

“We are committed to producing quality meals from fresh ingredients,” she says. ICSD “incorporates farm to school practices by purchasing fresh produce from local farmers,” and prepares plant-based recipes from scratch using these fresh ingredients.

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