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School lunch prices will increase 10 cents next school year, the St. Mary’s Board of Education decided Wednesday.

The 10-cent increase means parents will pay $2.25 for elementary lunches and $2.45 for middle or high school lunches, Mike Jones, supervisor of food and nutrition services, said. Breakfast prices will increase by 5 cents to $1.20 for elementary meals and $1.30 for secondary school per meal.

Milk costs will stay at 50 cents per carton next school year.

The school board raised lunch prices by 5 cents this school year, but had not raised prices the previous two years.

Money from the increase could be used to buy fresh vegetables or other healthier items, Jones said. Also, he said, egg products have been added to breakfasts.

The change to meal prices next school year is required for parity with the federal program that reimburses school systems for meals served free or at reduced prices, Jones said.

Currently the federal government reimburses St. Mary’s schools $2.77 for every meal served to a student who qualifies for the free and reduced-price meals program.

The Healthy and Hungry-free Kids Act of 2010 required school systems to either raise lunch prices over a period of time to come in line with the federal reimbursement or to make up the difference with outside funding. The cost will continue to go up each of the next few years until it matches the federal reimbursement rate, a school official said.

The federal law also required schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of meals. St. Mary’s already posts nutrition information on the school system’s website for all foods served.

School board member Cathy Allen said that it is becoming more challenging for some families to pay for school meals, but that she understood the need for the increase.

“We seem to be in the middle of what we charge our students for breakfast and lunch,” board member Mary Washington said of the prices in other Maryland school jurisdictions.

School officials said school meals were still a good value when compared to the cost of fast food meals.

Jones said Evergreen and Leonardtown elementary schools this year have tried out some taste-testing to help push children to try fruits and vegetables.

Allen said she would like to see cafeteria staff continue to help students try new foods.

jyeatman@somdnews.com