For the first time since the 2003-04 school year, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is considering increasing food prices for the 2007-08 school year to keep up with the rising costs of food, gas and supplies.

Also, with the Santa Monica City Council passing a ban on nonrecyclable disposable food service containers in January, the district will have to convert its current disposable products from polystyrene to non-polystyrene by January. This will increase costs from anywhere between $25,000 and $75,000 a year for the district, according to Orlando Griego, director of the Food and Nutrition Services Department for the district.

District meals are currently served on trays that cost about three cents each, Griego said. To switch to a non-polystyrene product, “we’d be going to a tray that costs anywhere from seven to ten cents a unit,” he said.

Also, as food costs continue to rise, so do costs associated with fuel, paper and supplies, he said.

The district serves 629,000 meals per year, said district deputy superintendent Tim Walker. “The increase in prices is necessary, reasonable and timely,” Walker said. “We do not want to get the district in a position where the costs have to be offset from the general fund.”

Currently, breakfast is $1 at the elementary schools in the district, and the district recommends raising that price to $1.25.

Breakfast at middle and high schools in the district is $1.25, and the district recommends raising it to $1.75.

Lunch at elementary schools is $2.75 and would go up to $3 and lunch at middle and high schools would go from $3.25 to $3.50.

Increasing the prices as recommended should result in an estimated $139,629 in additional revenue for the district, Griego said.

School board president Kathy Wisnicki said she wondered how the fee structure was arrived at.

“It does seem like we have a lot of increased costs if we are converting to non-polystyrene products,” she said. “And we also don’t know what our fuel costs will be next year. And there are a lot of other unknown variables.”

Wisnicki wondered whether increasing meal prices “slightly more now” would give Food and Nutrition Services more room to account for increased costs the district may not have anticipated. This, she says, may help staff avoid having to come back to the board to ask for another increase in food prices.

Griego said the increases were sufficient but that he would revisit the issue with interim chief financial officer Stephen Hodgson before returning to the school board to take action on the item.