By TIMOTHY COX
School lunch prices in Mercer County are among the lowest in
the area, but prices likely will be on the rise next year in
one of the most affordable cafeterias in the area.
Coldwater Exempted Village Schools board of education members
plan to resume discussion at Tuesday’s regular meeting
on a possible price increase for school lunches for next year.
As of now, the district’s lunch prices are among the cheapest
in the area at $1.30 for elementary school lunches and $1.40
for high school meals. Lunch prices at Coldwater have been increased
only a nickel during the past 13 years.
Only Marion Local Schools come close to Coldwater’s rock-bottom
prices. Marion Local high school students pay the same $1.40
per plate as in Coldwater, but Marion Local elementary school
lunches cost just $1.15.
“A lot of credit for the low prices has to go to the supervisors,”
Coldwater Superintendent Rich Seas said. “They’re
using good management and good staffing.”
The district also has benefited from striking good deals with
food cooperatives, Seas said. The savings to parents adds up
over the course of time, he noted.
Parents of two children would spend about $20 per week or about
$720 per school year on cafeteria lunches in districts like
Wapakoneta, Van Wert and Defiance, where high school lunches
cost $2 each. But the same meals at Marion Local and Coldwater
schools cost just $14 per week and $500 per year for two students.
A survey compiled by Coldwater cafeteria supervisor Lynn Rinderle
shows Coldwater tied with Marion Local for the cheapest high
school meals among 20 area schools. Elida schools have the most
expensive meals at $2.10 each.
Mercer County schools generally stack up well in providing affordable
meals. Beyond the affordable food at Coldwater and Marion Local,
St. Henry charges $1.50 for its high school meals. At Parkway
and Fort Recovery, meals cost $1.75 each — about the middle
of the pack. Celina charges $1.80 per high school meal, the
highest in the county.
In Auglaize County, New Bremen students pay $1.90 per plate.
A price increase is necessary in Coldwater, Seas said, where
cafeteria revenue no longer covers the costs of providing meals.
District administration officials have not decided on a recommended
price increase, but Seas noted that even a sizable bump of 25
cents per meal would still keep the district among the most
affordable school lunches in the area.
“We are losing money now and we need to address that,”
Seas said. “However, no price increase will take effect
until next year.”
Rising labor and benefits costs during the past two years have
pushed the Coldwater cafeteria operations into the red. The
district also saw its costs of feeding students increase this
year when it began operating another kitchen at the leased Franklin
Elementary School in Montezuma, Seas said.