FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Inflation declined to 6.5% in December, but food costs for elementary and secondary schools remain high.

Chief Financial Officer for Fort Smith Public Schools Charles Warren said school districts are no different than families when it comes to feeling the impacts of inflation.

“The burden that they see when they go to the grocery store is the same burden that we see when we’re trying to develop a good and nutritious school meal for their students,” Warren said.

Warren said bread costs are up about 20% from last year and paper products used to serve the food are up about 40% causing the whole meal to be pricier. Warren said meal prices in total have risen about 5-10% since the pandemic began.

Fort Smith doesn’t change meal prices for families throughout the year, so the district could have to eat up the cost in other ways if food costs remain high.

“School districts have to take money from the general operating fund to help supplement the costs of the meal, we would look at doing that for the future,” Warren said.

Inflation is also burdening the Samaritan Community Center which provides snack packs for kids in Northwest Arkansas on the weekends. Snack Packs for Kids program coordinator Bryan Armlovich said the packs now cost more to make with fewer items.

“It’s been $2.75 for eight items that we put in the snack packs and currently we’re at just reaching $3 for seven items,” Armlovich said.

Armlovich said the organization has had to get creative to stock the packs.

“We’ve had to scale down the size of our meat stick because the prices for the meat sticks that we were previously using, which had more protein in them, no longer became available, and the price increase was too expensive for us to stay on budget with.”