By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Erika Murphy, director of food services for the schools, told the School Committee on Thursday night she is asking for a 25-cent increase in the price of a lunch. She estimated that without the increase, the school lunch program will lose $43,000 during the next fiscal year, which will end June 30, 2014.
If the committee grants the increase, the program is expected to conclude the 2014 fiscal year $8,000 in the black, she said.
Murphy, who has run the schools’ food services for 19 years, said that since last year, she and her staff have had to follow federal guidelines established to reduce obesity and food insecurity among students.
They have decreased the amounts of food they serve to comply with federal standards on calorie consumption, she said. In addition, fruits and vegetables are offered every day and only low-fat and fat-free milk is served, she said.
Whole-grain bread is offered and no meal can pack more than 200 calories, Murphy said. The quantities of both fat and sugar in lunches have dropped, she said, and sodium cannot exceed 200 milligrams per meal.
The higher authorities may appreciate the reduced servings and calories — but many of the students do not. Murphy said there has been a “decline in meal participation” in all grades.
“I do see more brown-baggers,” student representative Nick Cincotta said. He also noted that while students may have their caloric intake limited in the cafeteria, they have the option of consuming more — and higher-calorie — food at home or elsewhere.
School Committee Chairwoman Laurie Burzlaff said the board will probably act on the request for a price increase at its next meeting Thursday night.
If the increase is approved, elementary students will pay $2.50 for lunch while middle- and high-schools will be charged $3.