DERRY — School officials agreed to increase lunch prices in the Derry district for next year but breakfast prices will remain the same.

At a meeting last month, the school board approved a 10-cent increase on the cost of lunch at the elementary and middle schools in the district, but said no to increasing the breakfast costs.

That increase will put the elementary lunch price at $2.80 for next year; middle-schoolers will pay $3 for their lunch.

But a breakfast increase proposal by district business administrator Jane Simard was denied by the board. Breakfast costs will remain the same at $1.50 per meal.

Simard said this is the first meal increase in the Derry district in several years, part of an effort to keep the food service program financially sustainable.

"And the increases don't affect students on the free/reduced lunch status," she said.

The program is also seeing needs for equipment upgrades and replacements, Simard said, adding some services/equipment needed included freezer repair at West Running Brook Middle School, convection double oven at East Derry Memorial Elementary, and a steamer at Ernest P. Barka Elementary.

The food service program also faces challenges in the unpaid balance area, where many families still owe outstanding debt to the district for unpaid food bills.

As of June 30 of this year, Simard said outstanding student balances totaled $24,681.82 with the most unpaid balance total at West Running Brook, totaling more than $10,000.

Collecting the money is often difficult, Simard said, but many efforts are in place to try and bring student balances up to date.

There are letters sent, phone calls, or other means of support to see if families need information on transitioning to the free/reduced meal program, Simard said.

But she stressed no child would ever go without lunch due to owing the district meal money.

"We won't take a tray away," Simard said. "But we have done our due diligence, offered payment plans, contacted social workers."

Simard said those who owe the biggest amounts often take the biggest coordinated effort to collect the unpaid funds.

"We are giving them plenty of notice, we work with them. We don't want to turn any child away," she said, adding some residents feel school taxes are high and that should help support the food service program.

Simard stressed the food service program is a self-funded entity and no tax dollars go to fund the program.

"And every child who doesn't pay for his meal impacts other children," she said.

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