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Faced with an increasing cost of food, commodities, and labor, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 plans to raise the price of school lunches by 50 cents per meal, effective with the upcoming school year.

The price hike would see elementary school lunches go for $3.25, and $3.75 in middle school.

It would be the first District 65 lunch price increase in seven years.

Chief Financial Officer Raphael Obafemi told the school board Finance Committee on Monday, “We take seriously the request to increase our food prices. We’ve held back as much as possible,” but the price of supplies and staffing “have gone up tremendously.”

The committee unanimously (3-0) recommended approval by the full board, although it was a reluctant recommendation.

District 65 Finance Committee meeting Monday afternoon.

Board member and committee chair Joey Hailpern said “50 cents doesn’t seem like a lot, but it can add up over the year,” particularly for families with more than one student.

Still, with labor costs jumping 60% in the last three years, committee members felt the increase was justified.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020, the federal government allowed schools to give free meals to all students, not just those from low income families. District 65 was one of the systems which provided free meals for all. However, that policy ended with the start of the 2022-23 school year.

According to the most recent state school report card, about 35% of the district’s 6,700 students are low income, and qualify for free or reduced price lunch (30 cents for breakfast, 40 cents for lunch). Everyone else buying lunch has to pay full price.

The $2.25 cost for full price breakfast at D65 schools will not increase.

According to an administration report, District 65 meal prices are currently within the same price range as other similar districts, from an elementary school low of $2.80 in Oak Park District 97 to a high of $4.35 in Wilmette District 39.

Lunch at Evanston Township High School costs $3.75 this year.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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1 Comment

  1. You would think a progressive school district like Evanston would have figured out a way to provide free lunches as a way to support equity among the student population. Apparently hundreds of thousands wasted on consultants and middle management (and exclusive costly security arrangements) with nothing to show for it were deemed more important to the administration and its overseers, the board. What people don’t seem to get is that the conditions in which our children are sent into to learn are less than desirable. I doubt most parents have a clear idea of the conditions our children have to deal with everyday.

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