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Nation’s economy affects school lunches

With a stumbling economy, oil prices reaching all-time highs and uncontrollable lows of the U.S. dollar value, people are also starting to notice a difference on their receipts every time they visit a supermarket.

The rise in food prices is taking place in grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias and everywhere schools purchase their food, said Mary Asplund, nutrition services director for the Federal Way School District.

Asplund said that as of March 2008, prices in food had gone up 2 percent to 3 percent.

“There’s been a big shift in how food is looked at,” she said.

Currently, the price on the lunches prepared by the district is $2 at the elementary level and $2.25 at the secondary level.

A school lunch has a nutritional value of 728 calories — consisting of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and two ounces of meat.

Although Asplund is not aware of what the price of these lunches will be next year, she did say that the district will most likely raise its prices.

“Every single district that I’ve spoken to is looking at doing that,” she said.

Asplund said that even though the prices on food will continue to increase, the best option for parents is purchasing school lunches, since prices at local grocery stores are going to be affected as well.

She emphasized that at school, lunches are not only cheaper, but also richer in nutritional values, as opposed to the starchy and sugar-friendly lunch items that many parents are purchasing at the supermarket.

“Buying school lunches is a good option today, and a good option next year, and we’re trying to keep it that way,” she said.

Asplund credits the rising prices of food to a blend of factors like fuel production, for which the corn crops are now being diverted.

“Corn is a basic grain for our country,” she said. “This is being used for producing everything from clothing, to the manufacture of steel, to food.”

She said that the price of corn has increased drastically and that it’s having an impact seen in many areas.

“It’s going to continue to rise,” Asplund said.

In countries around the world like Mexico, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to name a few, the continuing rise on the price of grain has created many riots, as well as anxiety and fear among its residents.

Asplund said the United States Department of Agriculture economic research service reflects a significant increase on the price of food, from which some sectors of the country are being affected more than others.

As food prices and the uncertainty of both the world and national economy continue to rise, many parents are spending more for their children’s sack lunches, rather than having them eat at their school cafeteria.

Recently, the Federal Way Nutrition Services Department created a survey for a local elementary with the purpose of studying what most children were carrying inside their sack lunches.

The results of the survey not only displayed a disturbing lack of fruits and vegetables in most of the sack lunches that were being prepared by parents, but it also illustrated the price of every food item bought, which in most cases added up to being more than what a parent would pay for a typical lunch at school.

Contact Aileen Charleston: acharleston@fedwaymirror.com

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