Next year the price of hot lunches will likely go up by 25 percent and milk prices will increase dramatically at schools that don’t serve a hot lunch in Riverside Elementary School District 96.

The district, which wants to reduce losses in its hot lunch program, serves a hot lunch only at L.J. Hauser Junior High School and at Central School. At the three other elementary schools, only milk is sold.

The district has lost money on its hot lunch program for many years. For the current school year, a loss of $43,500 is projected in the lunch program. Last year the district lost $46,421 while in the 2009-10 school year the district lost $69,043 serving lunches, according to figures presented to the school board’s finance committee on May 6.

“We’re concerned about our budget and want to do the best job we can,” said Judy Steinke, who runs the lunch program for District 96.

Steinke proposed that the district reduce its losses by increasing the price of its hot lunches to $3 from $2.40 and increase the price of milk from a dime to 40 cents at schools without a hot lunch. She estimated that those two changes would bring in about $28,500 in new revenue.

“We’ll still have a loss, but we’ll be reducing it,” said Zack Zayed, the district’s director of finance and operations.

The district is reimbursed $3 for each free lunch it serves to low-income students, but it is currently losing money on the lunches it is now selling for $2.40.

Steinke says that it costs the district 26 cents to buy a carton of milk, so the district is losing money on each carton of milk it sells, even those that it currently sells for 30 cents at Hauser/Central if the cost of refrigeration and labor are factored in.

Other ways to increase revenue, Steinke said, would be to get more teachers to buy lunch and have the district’s food staff cater some internal district meetings and events, such as Institute Days. The district could also invest in a point-of-sale system that could reduce labor costs, Steinke said.

“We’re not trying to be profitable,” Zayed said. “We just want to break even.”

Another way to raise additional revenue would be to institute a grab-and-go cold breakfast program.

“I think it would be very easy to start next August,” Steinke said.

The district has not raised the price of milk in at least eight years, lunchroom worker Susan Martinek told the school board.

School board member Michael O’Brien said it might be easier for parents just to raise the price of a carton of milk to 50 cents.

“Can’t we just raise it to 50 cents?” O’Brien asked. “That’s two quarters as opposed to four dimes. We’re a leader in District 96. I think we should be in the forefront of raising milk prices.”

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