Maine’s school districts are paying more for food to supply meals to students, officials say.
Portland anticipates a $330,000 increase on food and supply costs for 2023.
The USDA is offering reimbursements for meals. Schools are getting 15 cents for each breakfast and 40 cents for each lunch.
That has added up to over $300,000 for Portland schools this school year, according to interim food service director Dawn Hilton. There have also been two rounds of USDA supply chain assistance funds.
Hilton said her department has seen a 20% increase in food costs.
“When vendors are aware there might be an upcoming price increase, they will try to let us know ahead of time in case you have the capacity to store additional inventory,” Hilton said.
Windham officials say they have seen prices increase 30% to 300% depending on the product.
RSU 14 nutritionist Jeanne Reilly was in Washington, D.C. recently working with colleagues from across the country to try to extend USDA funding that is set to expire at the end of June.
This funding has helped school districts get by while dealing with, for example, egg prices tripling and milk costing 20% to 25% more, according to Reilly.
“We are really committed to continuing to try to scratch cook as much as possible. We’ve really needed to start purchasing from multiple vendors. Create relationships with other vendors,” Reilly said.
Reilly said there are proposals to extend or renew the USDA funding, but nothing is set in stone.