MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 18, 2013

Proposed meal program cuts headed to MPS board

Possible price increases also on agenda

By Cathy Spaulding
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Free school breakfasts for all Muskogee Public Schools students through eighth grade could end under a district proposal to cut child nutrition costs.

Students also could face higher lunch prices to help the district meet federal reimbursement regulations, said Jaime Speligene, MPS’ child nutrition director.

Currently, all students through eighth grade are entitled to free school breakfasts, and Muskogee High School students pay $1.25. All students at Irving, Cherokee and Whittier Elementary Schools also receive free lunches, Speligene said.

At its regular meeting at 6 p.m. today, the Muskogee Board of Education is to consider:

• Elimination of free breakfast program for all students through eighth grade.

• Discontinuation of free, or non-priced, lunches for all Cherokee, Irving and Whittier students.

• Several proposals to increase lunch prices for students not on free and reduced lunches.

Speligene said proposals to eliminate free breakfasts and non-priced lunches are efforts to cut child nutrition costs.

“I have to cut $400,000 to $500,000,” she said, adding that the department already had cut 11 child nutrition positions through attrition.

Speligene said elimination of the universal free breakfast program at the Early Childhood Center, elementary schools and Alice Robertson Junior High could save $70,000. Children who qualify for free breakfasts would still receive free breakfasts, she said.

She won’t have a proposal on how much to charge for breakfasts until the board makes its decision, she said.

Eliminating the all-student free lunch programs at Irving, Whittier and Cherokee could save $25,000 to $30,000, she said. Students qualifying for free and reduced lunches would continue to receive lunches at the free or reduced rates.

She said about 80 percent of MPS students are on free or reduced lunches.

Speligene attributed the proposed price increases to federal regulations requiring schools to charge full-price meal prices at the same rate they’re reimbursed for free meals. She said districts can make incremental increases each year until they match the reimbursement rate.

Speligene said she has two proposals for the board:

• To increase full-price lunch prices at the Early Childhood Center from $1.60 to $1.90 and at the elementary schools from $1.90 to $2.

• To increase full-price lunch prices at the ECC from $1.60 to $.190, elementary schools from $1.90 to $1.95 and at MHS, AR and Rougher Alternative Academy from $2.35 to $2.45.

She said the federal government currently reimburses the district $2.88 for a free lunch, $2.48 for a reduced lunch and 29 cents for a full-priced lunch.

“It will be higher every year,” until the reimbursement rate is matched, Speligene said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

If you go

WHAT: Muskogee Board of Education meeting.

WHEN: 6 p.m. today.

WHERE: Board of Education Service and Technology Center, 202 W. Broadway.