The Mehlville Board of Education voted unanimously June 9 to set meal prices for the 2022-2023 school year, in addition to approving food vendors for school food.
The board voted 6-0 to set the full-pay price of breakfast at $2, the elementary full-pay price of lunch at $2.90, the secondary full-pay price of lunch at $3 and premium meals are $3.25. The reduced price of breakfast is 30 cents and the reduced price of lunch of 40 cents. Adult breakfast and lunch is $3 and $4.10 respectively.
During the pandemic, Mehlville received a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture that allowed it to feed all students for free, regardless of if they were eligible for free and reduced lunches. However, that program ended in May, meaning the board had to set meal prices for the upcoming school year.
The district receives federal reimbursement for each meal, with the reimbursement amount depending on if the meal was full pay or reduced. School Food and Nutrition Services Director Katie Gegg said that federal meal reimbursement rates for next school year have not been set yet.
“The federal reimbursement rates are not set yet … so it made setting meal prices a little challenging not knowing what we’re going to be getting back for our full-pay lunches,” Gegg said. “I feel comfortable with where we set these prices at.”
Due to increased food and labor costs, both full-pay prices for breakfast and lunch took a jump. Full-pay breakfast increased by 50 cents from $1.50, and full-pay elementary lunch increased 50-cents from $2.40 prior to the pandemic. Secondary full-pay lunch increased by 35 cents; premium lunches increased by 40 cents.
The district’s prices are comparable to nearby districts like Fox in Jefferson County, Gegg said. Fox’s elementary lunch price is $2.90 while the secondary price is $3.05; breakfast is $1.60 for all grade levels.
“How I landed on these prices is by looking at our (food) bids, costing out the meals, giving some leeway for labor,” Gegg said. Mehlville’s school food department is entirely self-funded, with its operating money coming from meal sales and federal reimbursement.
In addition to setting next school year’s meal prices, the board also approved bids for food vendors. The nutrition department sends out bids in six different areas: branded pizza, bread products, ice cream, milk, produce and a prime vendor. Pizza, bread, milk and ice cream only received one bid each, while the prime vendor and produce received two bids each.
“It was slim on what we received back and we’re not the only district. Like I said before, I network with a lot of districts and several of them only received one bid in a lot of these categories as well,” Gegg said. “We have worked with all of the vendors that I am recommending.”
The district received an $8,223-a-week bid for branded pizza from Domino’s, a $21,756 bid for ice cream from North Star, a $175,085 bid for milk from Prarie Farms, a $1,830,016 bid from prime vendor Kohl Wholesale and a $12,253 bid from What Chefs Want for produce.
In years prior, the district has gone with an “escalating” bid for milk, meaning that the price the district pays each month for milk could vary depending on the raw milk cost, however, the board voted to go with the firm bid price this year on Gegg’s recommendation.
“Normally (the escalator pricing) has worked out in our favor but this year with all of the price increases, the gas, the paper products — the cartons could go up — I felt comfortable sticking with a firm bid, where the price no matter what isn’t going to change,” Gegg said.
Additionally, Gegg added the department plans to purchase frozen bread products through the prime vendor Kohl, rather than using the one vendor, Jackson Produce, who provided a bid to the district for bread.
“So Jackson, they’re a produce (company) but they are starting to offer bread, but their pricing is just too high. They just don’t have the volume to have good pricing,” Gegg said. “We are going to purchase our bread through our prime vendor. It’s going to be a whole different way of operating but we brought in some of these products, we sampled them … and it’s still a great product.”
Using the prime vendor for frozen bread products is about $25,000 cheaper than going with the $125,400 bid from Jackson Produce for bread supplies.