School lunch prices will stay the same for 2003-04 at Department of Defense Education Activity overseas schools, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service recently announced.

Lunch will cost $1.95 for elementary school pupils and $2.10 for middle- and high-school students. Reduced prices will be 40 cents for all grades and free for students who meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.

Frank O’Gara, a spokesman for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe, said parents should ask their school’s registrar or liaison officer for the paperwork needed to qualify for free or reduced lunch prices. The guidelines, O’Gara said, are set by the USDA and not the schools.

AAFES provides the food and personnel to operate school cafeterias. The military services provide equipment and cafeteria facilities.

Maj. John Ruibal, AAFES’ staff dietitian, said in a news release that prices did not rise because of efficient operations, reduced overhead and adequate funding from the USDA and DODEA.

AAFES operates the school lunch program on a nonprofit basis, according to the press release, and meal prices are set to cover food costs and operational expenses.

Jeanne McDonald, a spokeswoman for AAFES-Europe, said that students at Mannheim, Germany, can have school lunch fees automatically withdrawn from an account each time they go through the lunch line. Students punch in a personal identification number and the meal is credited to an account. Information on setting up an account can be obtained at the customer service desk at the exchange on the base, McDonald said.

McDonald said that schools in Heidelberg, Ramstein and Kaiserslautern, Germany, are trying to establish similar automatic-withdrawal programs but did not know if they would be available for the upcoming school year, which starts Sept. 2.

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