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Quick Hits: Pinching Pennies in Lunch Lady Land

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

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Soon students and kitchen staff will be crying over spilt milk.

CNNMoney.com reports that the price spike in eggs, flour and milk is making it harder for schools to cook up nutritious lunches for students. They're changing and mixing ingredients to make up the difference, but that's a short-term solution with long-term consequences.

In order for students to get the nutritious meals they need, kitchen staff might suffer. In New York , three days have already been taken off the 191-day work year because of food inflation.

Further, parents who insist their kids eat more vegetables could be asking for higher prices per plate and possible layoffs of kitchen staff.

Food prices nationwide have risen 4.5% between March 2007 and March 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index. Milk has increased by as much as 13%. The cost of flour, another staple, has jumped 14%.

In order to keep their federal reimbursement, which covers the school districts' lunch tables, schools have to meet weekly requirements for each food group. Congress lifts reimbursement rates every year, but school officials feel that the rate increases need to keep up with inflation.

To cut corners, faculty is mixing frozen with fresh vegetables and beefsteak tomatoes with cheaper grape tomatoes.

In July, the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee meet to set new reimbursement rates for the coming school year.

Until then, bag lunch anyone?

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