Investigative Report: Rising School Lunch Costs

Investigative Report: Rising School Lunch Costs

by Riley Pierce
eSomethin Staff

Riley Pierce
Riley Pierce

As many people know, the cost of a school lunch varies between buildings in our district.  An elementary school or junior high lunch costs $2.75, but a high school lunch costs $3.00. So what makes lunch at the high school lunch more expensive?  I sat down with Lila Szozda, Child Nutrition Director of Perrysburg Schools, to find out about the varying cost of our lunches.

Szozda explained that the components of a lunch at to elementary and jr.high are, “A lunch is a protein, a grain, one cup of fruit, one cup of vegetables, and a milk.” The difference between that and the high school is, a high school lunch contains twice the cups of fruit and vegetables. High schoolers can have two fruits and two vegetables.

Szozda also noted we have a lot more choices than other schools. Each day we can choose from four different lunch lines, plus an á la carte line.  Many other schools only have one line of a random lunch each day.

(If you want to learn more about the lunch lines at PHS see Omid in this Perrysburg Declassified video)

Almost all of our food is also made on site, unlike other schools who make food somewhere else and have it shipped.  Our lunches are made as the day goes on, meaning when they run out of your favorite lunch it is because they didn’t prepare for so many people to want that meal. 

Lila Szozda, Child Nutrition Director for the Perrysburg School district. THE BLADE
Lila Szozda, Child Nutrition Director for the Perrysburg School district. THE BLADE

“When you go to the elementary school they always take count, and at the high school level you just have to think ‘how many people are going to want this lunch.’  It’s a guessing game” Szozda told me.

Though some people think that $3.00 for a school lunch is expensive, think what the price of a lunch covers for the school lunch program. The school lunch program gets no money from our school fees or from our school district taxes.

Szozda said  “With the cost of your meal we have to pay for the the meal, the labor, the benefits, supplies, you help pay to purchase equipment, and you help pay for the maintenance of that equipment.” Even with having to pay for all these things our lunches, the price of lunch at the high school is still pretty cheap.

Perrysburg plastic lunch utensils (Photo credit: Zach Isaacson)
Perrysburg plastic lunch utensils (Photo credit: Zach Isaacson)

Try comparing it to a fast food meal. For example, a Big Mac meal from McDonalds is about $6.00 this meal comes with a Big Mac, a medium fry, and a soft drink. This is less filling than a school lunch, where you could get a burger, an apple, peaches, carrots, green beans, and a milk for only $3.00.  And, school lunches are healthier.

Each year, Szozda and the lunch administrators average out all of these factors and estimate about how many people will buy lunch. This is how they figure out how much a lunch will cost for that year. This year the exact price they determined was $3.04 which they rounded down to $3.00. With all the factors that go into the price you can understand why lunches cost what they do.  

We should all try to remember that the cost of our $3.00 meal, helps to pay for much more than just the food you are eating.


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