Punxsy board unhappy with USDA cost mandates

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Members of the Punxsutawney Area School Board say they dislike the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA ) mandating price increases for school lunches.

District Cafeteria Manager Denise Geist said the USDA eventually wants all of the school districts to get to $2.51 as the price per lunch.
She said she thinks the district should raise the price of a lunch for next year by 10 cents.

“We can raise it a nickel like we did last year,” Geist said, adding that the operative number for last year was $2.46 per lunch.

Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) said improving child nutrition is the focal point of the act. The legislation authorizes funding and sets policy for USDA’s core child nutrition programs.

Geist said with the 10-cent increases the prices will increase from $1.85 to $1.95 for elementary students and $1.95 to $2.05 for the high school.

“The state would like every district to be up to $2.51, which is what the reimbursement rate is for a free meal,” she said.

Geist said there is no actual time frame for districts to increase its prices to $2.51.

She said the district must increase prices by the mandatory two percent, plus the

inflation rate of 2.81 percent, which is how the district arrives at an increase of 10 cents.

Board Vice-President Francis J. Molinaro said the USDA is mandating that the prices be raised.

“I don’t feel that we should raise these prices to people who aren’t working or are making $7.50 per hour and have two or three kids,” he said.

Geist said with the current price at $1.95, the district is being reimbursed 51 cents for a free meal, and that the USDA feels that it is making up the difference for all the paid students.

Board member Bob Pascuzzo asked if there is a penalty if the district doesn’t abide by the USDA directive, to which Business Manager Susan Robertson replied it would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

On another subject, Geist said the free breakfast went very well, as the first week, there were 1,009 students taking part, and 1,002 the second week.

‘”I think the teachers were pushing the free breakfast because the PSSA tests were that same week,” Geist said, noting that the cafeteria actually lost money that week.

Pascuzzo, asked if there were issues with the grab-n-go breakfast, to which PAHS Principal David London replied there were some milk cartons in lockers the other day, and he had the students clean them out.

“If the student gets a milk or juice, there’s no place to dispose of them,” he said. “The students have to leave first period to go down to the rest room to dump it out.

“High school kids are going to put stuff in lockers,” London said. “When it’s in the halls, you’re going to have more of that occurring.”

In other business:
• Jim Baun, chairman of buildings and maintenance, said the concrete project planned for Parkview Elementary School must be put on hold until the drainage problem is addressed.

Baun also said the fence at Jenks Hill Elementary School must be moved before the parking area is tarred and chipped.

Board member Jack White asked if the district maintenance staff would be able to move the fence, and Baun said everything will be discussed at the buildings and maintenance committee meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Pascuzzo said the specs need to be drawn up for sealing and line painting at the high school parking lots because two years ago, the district didn’t receive a good job. But board President Gary Conrad said in all fairness, the company also had to deal with a mess because the maintenance had been neglected.

• The public is invited to a budget workshop at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Central Office Board Room.