April 25, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

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

The La Grande School Board Wednesday unanimously approved a proposal to raise the cost of its breakfasts and lunches. The price increase takes effect in September.

Nobody from the community spoke in support of or in opposition to the increase at Wednesdays meeting. The proposal to change the rates for the first time since 1995 was made at the April 11 school board meeting.

Under the new schedule, the cost of breakfast for students at all schools will jump from 50 cents to $1.

Lunch prices will be boosted by the following amounts:

Elementary schools current price: $1.20; new price: $1.35.

Middle school current price: $1.40; new price: $1.60.

High school current price: $1.60; new price: $1.80.

The increases would raise an additional $18,000 if the number of breakfasts and lunches sold remains constant, said Gary Howland, the school districts plant operations director and food service administrator.

Howland, however, anticipates the number of meals purchased will decline because of falling enrollment and the fact that some families stop buying school breakfasts and lunches after prices increase. Those families will usually start buying them again later.

Howland said it is more realistic to anticipate that the price increases would raise $15,000 in 2001-02. The additional money will not make the lunch and breakfast program self-supporting but will help.

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 year, Howland said.

The school board has found the funds to make up the difference each year and has agreed to so again this year. The board has not required the breakfast and lunch program to break even because it has wanted to keep prices affordable.