During last week’s meeting of the Stephenville Independent School District (SISD) Board of Trustees, a troubled Rebecca Eckert, child nutrition director for the district, presented alarming statistics that showed how soaring gas prices have drastically increased the cost of commodities used to feed students across the district.

“I am sorry to say that for the first time in 14 years, we will have to increase prices in our lunchrooms,” Eckert said. “Due to the inflation caused by fuel costs and natural disasters we are recommending a 25 cent increase for all students’ meals because all food and non-food items have increased in price.”

An example provided by Eckert foreshadowed the significant impact cost increases will have on consumers in the coming year. She said that projected cost increases were unimaginable and maybe even “horrific.”

“For the SISD, the big lunch days are when we serve pizza and chicken nuggets. We serve about 1,875 students on those days,” Eckert said. “To serve the same number of students, the same amount of pizza in the 2008-09 school year, we have been quoted an increase of $5,500. The increase in chicken will be about $4,000. That is a total of $9,500 on two products alone.”

Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd explained that since Eckert has been in charge of the district’s nutrition program, not one penny on the general budget had been used to support the department.

“I credit Rebecca with running a very efficient child nutrition program,” Floyd said. “Not one penny of taxpayer money has been used to feed our students. Her program is completely self sufficient and I recommend that we approve the increase she is requesting to help her maintain that standing.”

In addition, Floyd explained that across the nation, nutrition directors have had to address their school boards and request an increase costs in lunchrooms.

“This is not a problem unique to the Stephenville Independent School District,” Floyd said.

In an attempt to keep the child nutrition program running on its own funds, the board voted to allow an increase of 25 cents for all school lunches. For the 2008-09 school year, elementary students will be charged $2 per day, secondary students will eat for $2.25, and adults will pay $3 to eat in school cafeterias.

Parents in the district have been mailed letters explaining the increase — an increase Floyd said could no longer be avoided.