Mandates hike NA lunch prices

    Tighter state requirements governing school nutrition guidelines have forced North Adams Community Schools to boost lunch prices for the 2011-2012 school year.
    Erin Ripley, food service director for the school district, addressed the changes — some of which are already in place, and others which are expected to be imposed — during Tuesday evening's meeting of the North Adams school board.
    Ripley said new guidelines affect the type of milk that must be offered (skim milk only) to mandates to reduce the number of calories and the amount of sodium served to students. She said the changes will greatly affect the way North Adams prepares and serves the nearly 2,400 school lunches daily.
    To adapt to the ever-changing guidelines, Ripley said, food processors and suppliers are being forced to develop new product lines, "and they're passing those costs on to us."
    Acting on Ripley's recommendation, the board approved a 10-cent increase in all school lunch prices, starting this fall. The new prices will be $1.90 for students in kindergarten through grade 4, and $2 for students in grades 5-12. Adult lunch prices will be $2.75.
    School board member Deb Bergman called the price hike "just another unfunded mandate" from the state.
    Ripley said the district provides free and reduced-price lunches to 47 percent of its students.