School lunch prices will increase by 25 cents in the fall for students in overseas Department of Defense schools, to cover rising costs and comply with federal law.

That adds up to a 75-cent increase since 2017. Lunch prices have gone up by 25 cents in each of the last two school years in overseas Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

The Navy Exchange Service Command and Army & Air Force Exchange Service manage the school lunch programs, depending on the location, for about 50,000 students at DoD schools overseas.

Here are the lunch prices starting in the fall, for students in the 2019-2020 school year:

  • Elementary students (kindergarten through 5th grade): $3.25
  • Secondary students (6th grade through 12th grade): $3.50
  • Families who qualify for reduced-cost meals will still pay 40 cents for lunch and 30 cents for breakfast.
  • Breakfast prices (at participating locations) for all grades are $1.75

“NEXCOM provides school meals on a nonprofit, break-even basis, for the DoD Student Meal Program,” said Christina Kepa, NEXCOM Student Meal Program Specialist, in a statement announcing the increase. “However, due to significant cost increases to run the overseas program, a gradual cost increase has been necessary.”

According to AAFES, the pricing of each lunch, on average, is about $2 below the actual cost of $5.50 per plate. DoDEA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburse the military exchanges for direct costs of the student meals that are above the price paid by the students.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires DoDEA schools, like all participants in the USDA meal program, to raise paid student lunch prices to a level comparable to the rates used for USDA reimbursement, so the prices are increasing gradually through the 2020-2021 school year.

Each year, the AAFES school meal program provides 2.5 million lunches to children in 80 DoD schools in Europe and the Pacific.

For example, on the school lunch menu for Monday, May 6, according to the AAFES school meal program website: Parmesan chicken burger/Breaded Chicken Burger/or vegan Greek Entree Salad; dinner roll; greens, tomatoes, pickles with the burger; honey glazed carrots; cinnamon applesauce and milk.

The Department of Defense Student Meal Program meets the same requirements under U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for providing meals that have the required nutrients for children. “Providing a nutritious breakfast and lunch is our top priority and we will continue offer quality nutritional meals that contain whole grains, lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables and low-fat milk,” NEXCOM’s Kepa said.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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