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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is resisting at least one nationwide trend when it comes to school lunches.

While 75 percent of stateside school districts are expected to raise cafeteria meal prices this fall by an average of 30 cents to counter soaring food and fuel costs, AAFES won’t increase its school lunch prices this year, according to AAFES spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan Potter.

The current cost for an AAFES school lunch is $2.05 for elementary school students and $2.20 for secondary school students, according to information from AAFES.

The average price school districts in the States are expected to charge students for a meal in 2008-09 is $2.00, according to the School Nutrition Association.

AAFES administers school lunches on Army and Air Force installations in Europe and the Pacific. The program is designed to be a break-even operation and is subsidized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Defense Education Activity, Potter noted.

While meal prices won’t be changing, Potter said students can expect to see more fresh fruits and vegetables on the menu, in response to a request from parents in Europe, Potter said.

That healthful trend seems to be in line with stateside school districts. According to the School Nutrition Association’s 2008 report, district nutrition programs are emphasizing whole grains, fruits and vegetables while cutting back on trans fats, added sugar and sodium.

Also this year, AAFES is going to offer students in grades 2 to 6 two lunch entrees, instead of one. And the menu cycle will be reduced from six weeks to three weeks, Potter said in a written response, which "will give more flexibility to change the menu if some items are not well received."

Bases overseas are accepting applications for the free and reduced lunch program.

At Misawa Air Base, the application period opened Aug. 1 and continues throughout the school year, according to Will Jenkins, 35th Mission Support Group deputy director.

Family size and income determine whether a student qualifies. For example, a student in a family of four with a household income of $46,250 or less would qualify for reduced-price meals, according to USDA.

Those eligible for a reduced lunch pay 40 cents per meal, according to AAFES.

Jenkins said about 120 people have applied for the program at Misawa, with an approval rating of 92 percent so far.

Applications at Misawa can be picked up at any of the base schools, the Airman and Family Readiness Center, or at the AAFES base exchange customer service counter.

At other bases, AAFES advises parents to check with the base community services division for the procedure on applying for free or reduced meals.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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