April 15, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

The cost of eating meals in the La Grande School District may jump for the first time in six years.

The La Grande School Board is considering a proposal to raise the cost of its breakfasts and lunches for the first time since 1995.

Under a plan being considered by the board, the cost of breakfast for students at all schools would jump from the current price of 50 cents to $1.

The plan calls for lunch prices to be boosted by the following amounts.

Elementary schools Current lunch price: $1.20. Proposed price: $1.35.

Middle school Current price: $1.40. Proposed price: $1.60.

High school Current price: $1.60. Proposed price: $1.80.

The school board may vote on the proposed increases at its April 25 meeting. If approved, the increases would take effect at the start of the 2001-2002 school year. The increases would raise an additional $18,000 if the number of breakfasts and lunches sold remains the same, said Gary Howland, the school districts plant operations director and food service administrator.

Howland anticipates that the number of meals purchased will decline because of falling enrollment and the fact that some families tend to stop buying school breakfasts and lunches right after a price increase. Those families usually will start buying them again later.

Howland said that it is more realistic to anticipate that the price increases would raise $15,000 in 2001-2002. The additional money will not make the lunch and breakfast program self supporting but it would help, he said.

The school districts meal program has not been self-supporting for several years. In 1999-2000 the program lost $30,000 and it is expected to lose money again this school year, Howland said.

The school board has made up the difference each year and has agreed to do so again for this school year. The board has not required the breakfast and lunch program to be self-supporting because it has wanted to keep prices affordable, Howland said.

Howland said La Grandes lunch and breakfast prices are lower than a number of other school districts. He cited the Hermiston and Pendleton school districts as examples. In Hermiston breakfast is 75 cents for all students. Lunch is $1.35 at the elementary schools, $1.60 at the middle school and $1.80 at the high school.

In Pendleton, breakfast is 75 cents at elementary schools and $1.05 at the middle school and high school. Lunches are $1.25 at elementary schools, $1.50 at the middle school and $1.65 at the high school.

Howland said both the Hermiston and Pendleton school boards are considering raising breakfast and lunch prices.