Faced with increasing prices of basic commodities on three islands, the Board of Education has approved an increase in the meal reimbursement rates for its school food vendors, effective Oct. 1, the start of new fiscal year 2014.
Board of Education chair Herman T. Guerrero told Saipan Tribune the decision was approved based on the request of meal vendors who have been suffering from high utility rates and extra shipping costs, especially on the islands of Tinian and Rota.
School meals offered to students in private and public schools are fully funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This fiscal year 2014, PSS will get a little over $10 million for the school meal program.
PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh disclosed that 98 percent of this amount directly goes to the school meal vendors who ensure that students are offered nutritious breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.
The new rate increase, according to Thornburgh, is 20 cents for lunch meals and 10 cents for breakfast meals.
In consideration of the unique situation of Rota and Tinian where commodities and shipping cost are issues, PSS will be implementing a different rate for the two islands. Thornburgh said that PSS tries to provide its meal vendors a rate adjustment each fiscal year to help them cope with increasing costs.
School meals are offered to students free or at reduced prices. To qualify for free meals, an application to the PSS Food and Nutrition Services must be filed.
According to Dale Roberts, PSS Food and Nutrition Service program manager, the system has seven meal vendors: five on Saipan and one each on Rota and Tinian.
The Saipan vendors are Herman’s Modern Bakery, MV Reyes Catering, LSG Sky Chefs, Kalayaan Inc., and Barny’s Pizza. Tinian schools have MV Reyes Catering while Rota schools have Songao Enterprises.
According to Roberts, students that are eligible for free meals get one free breakfast and one free lunch each day if they choose to eat in the cafeteria.
“We [FNS/USDA] subsidize the full amount for their breakfast and lunch meals. That is the free priced reimbursement. Any child not eligible for free school meals can purchase a meal at the reduced rate (50 cents for a subsidized breakfast and 75 cents for a subsidized lunch). We pay the remainder of the cost of those meals. That is the reduced price reimbursement,” he explained.
Either way, he said, the cost of the meal is the same.
“We pay the full amount for the free meal and we pay the full amount minus the 50 cents for a breakfast and the full amount minus the 75 cents for a lunch for the reduced price meal. The vendor gets the same amount of money per meal either way,” he added.
The following are the increased meal reimbursement rates on Saipan effective Oct. 1:
For breakfast, vendors supplying meals to the Head Start and Day Care Centers will get reimbursement of $1.90 for free breakfast and $1.40 for the reduced breakfast meal they serve.
Those supplying elementary schools on Saipan will get a reimbursement rate of $2.10 for free lunch and $1.60 for reduced lunch meals. For private secondary, reimbursement is $2.40 for free breakfast and $1.90 for reduced meals. In public secondary schools, reimbursement is $2.50 for free breakfast and $2 for reduced breakfast meal.
For lunch, vendors at the Head Start and day care centers will get $2.60 reimbursement for free lunch and $1.85 for reduced lunch meal. In elementary schools, the reimbursement rate is $3.30 for free meals and $2.55 for reduced lunch meals. In private secondary, the reimbursement rate is $3.60 for free meals and $2.85 for reduced price meals. For public secondary schools, reimbursement rate is $3.85 for free meals and $3.10 for reduced price meals.