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Schools raise lunch fees as food costs increase

Date Posted: 2008-07-25

After a decade of stability in school lunch prices, most of Okinawa’s municipalities say they’re being forced to raise prices beginning with the new school year.

Higher food costs for flour, bread, rice, noodles, spaghetti, milk and meats have jumped more than 6.1% in the past year, and school officials say they can’t survive without a price hike. School cafeterias have eliminated desserts or reduced the selections to save money, and have begun purchasing less expensive ingredients for meals, but officials say it’s not enough.

Thirty-two of Okinawa’s 41 municipalities say they’ll raise prices in the coming school year, some by as much as 20%. Naha, Nago, Uruma and Itoman Cities are leading 11 cities raising school lunch fees. Chatan, Haebaru and Kume Town say they’ll do the same, while Ogimi and Yomitan Villages are among 21 villages and towns who’ll raise prices.

Current elementary school lunch fees range from ¥2,700~3,900, and junior high school fees ¥2,900~4,500 per month. Predictions are that the average increases per month will be ¥500~800 per student, although Yomitan Village says theirs “may be ¥300 more.” Ishigaki City’s schools have already increased prices nearly 20%, up ¥810 per month.

Cities, towns and villages are all concerned about how to explain the price increases to parents. Several school officials worry how parents will be able to handle the increases, noting that some people can’t even afford to pay school lunch fees at all.

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