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Cost of Hillsborough school lunches running lean

Hillsborough school officials were quick to call attention to their low-cost meal program when they wanted to raise the price of school lunches for the coming year.

At a School Board meeting in May, the district's chief business officer laid out the case, saying there's little fat in Hills­borough's operating costs. Gretchen Saunders said Hillsborough's cost for preparing a school lunch is one of the lowest in the state.

"Last year, Student Nutrition Services spent $2.46 to produce a meal, and when you compared it to other Florida school districts, we ranked one of the lowest, or 60th out of the 67 school districts," she told School Board members.

Was she right?

In 2006-07, the last year for which the state has figures, Hillsborough's cost to prepare a lunch was actually $2.40, 6 cents less than Saunders stated. The mistake was caused by a typo in the board materials, said Mary Kate Harrison, Hills­borough's general manager of student nutrition services.

School lunch costs vary widely across the state. While Pasco prepared a lunch for $2.57, the meal cost $2.52 in Pinellas, state records show. The highest price was $3.73. That was in Monroe County, which encompasses Key West.

Hillsborough's ranking was actually better than Saunders reported. In 2006-07, Hillsborough ranked 61st in cost among 67 school districts, according to the state report.

With the price of cafeteria staples like milk and bread rising fast these days, Hillsborough school officials said they had to request a meal price increase starting in August to keep the school lunch program in the black. The School Board has approved the 50-cent hike.

Though some of her details were off, Saunders correctly noted that Hillsborough is serving up meals more efficiently than most school districts in the state. We rule her statement Mostly True.

The statement

"Last year, student nutrition services spent $2.46 to produce a meal, and when you compared it to other Florida school districts, we ranked one of the lowest, or 60th out of the 67 school districts."

Gretchen Saunders, Hillsborough school district's chief business officer, comment made May 20 at a School Board meeting The ruling

The cost and ranking were a little off, but Saunders correctly noted that Hillsborough serves up meals more efficiently than most school districts in Florida.

Sources: Florida Department of Education, Hillsborough School District.

Cost of Hillsborough school lunches running lean 07/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, July 28, 2008 11:12pm]

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