The Santa Barbara Unified School District Board voted Tuesday to raise lunch prices and ban Roundup Quick Pro, a pesticide, from being applied at schools.
Roundup Quick Pro — a weedkiller whose main ingredient glyphosate is deemed by some scientists as carcinogenic — remains on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of approved pesticides, and the agency announced on Aug. 8 that it “will no longer approve product labels claiming glyphosate is known to cause cancer — a false claim that does not meet the labeling requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.”
There are those who disagree with the EPA, however, and France is one of them. France has committed to decreasing glyphosate from its agricultural activity, and the district is joining the European country in the move.
Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to remove Roundup Quick Pro from the list of approved pesticide products that licensed pest control contractors may use. The district has not used Roundup in more than four years, but Tuesday’s vote ensured that it will not be used again in the near future.
“These kids are vulnerable and exposed to sometimes the cheapest product but that means the product that’s the most harmful and causing cancer,” said board member Laura Capps. “This is an environmental justice issue.”
After addressing the grass that is kids’ playing grounds, the board members turned to prices of lunch.
School lunch prices are going up in district schools for the next two academic school years starting Aug. 20.
In the previous years, lunch was priced at $2.75 for elementary schools and $3.50 for secondary schools. Students either pay the full prices or apply for free or reduced lunch, which are reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The prices will be increased to ensure that the district is in compliance with the California Department of Education-established reimbursement rates for the free and reduced lunches.
The current reimbursement rate is around $2.90 for elementary schools and $3.75 for secondary ones, and for the next two academic years, lunch prices will rise by $0.25 annually until elementary lunches are $3.25 and secondary lunches $4 by August 2020. The price hike will affect students who do not qualify for either reduced or free meals. In comparison to previous years, parents whose students must pay the full price will pay $5 more each week per student for the upcoming academic year and then $10 more for the following year. The price increase is predicted to generate a gain of about $70,000 over the course of the two years.
The confidential meal application where families can apply for free or reduced meals can be found at www.sbunified.org/food.
“If a parent has not submitted an application and their child is without the funds necessary to purchase food in the cafeteria,” says the district’s website, “the cafeteria manager will allow that student to obtain a meal but will put the student’s cafeteria account into the negative.”
This negative balance is the responsibility of the parents, according to the website, and any negative balance on an account prior to qualification of free or reduced meal will not be pardoned and must be paid off.
These negative balances form what is known as the student meal debt, which seems to be growing according to research done by the School Nutrition Association, a national nonprofit focused on providing low-cost meals to students.
The next board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at 720 Santa Barbara St.