The cost of school lunches in Hawaii has been rising, and one menu item in particular costs almost twice as much today as it did three years ago: hot dogs.

In 2009, the state paid $0.22 for a hot dog on Oahu.

This year the state paid $0.40 per serving.

It may seem like pennies at first, but it can add up to a lot in a school system that serves about 20 million meals per year. In the bids sent out to potential vendors, the state estimates that it will buy about 400,000 hot dogs every six months.

That’s $88,000 for hot dogs at $0.22 per serving, but $160,400 at today’s rate.

The difference between then and now?

Today’s hot dogs are all-beef, while in 2009 schools served mixed meat hot dogs.

That’s almost $150,000 more per year for beef hot dogs.

According to data provided by the Department of Education Office of Procurement, the prices for frankfurters have gone up each year for the past five years.

Year Oahu Hawaii Maui Molokai/Lanai Kauai
2008 Sugardale $0.195/srvg. Farmland/Gold Medal $0.210/srvg. Sugardale $0.201/srvg. Sugardale $0.229/srvg. Sugardale $0.191/srvg.
2009 Sugardale $0.220/srvg. Farmland/Gold Medal $0.241/srvg. Sugardale $0.256/srvg. Sugardale $0.295/srvg. Sugardale $0.220/srvg.
2010 Kelly Eisenberg $0.353/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.383/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.410/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.508/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.386/srvg.
2011 Kelly Eisenberg $0.384/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.405/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.443/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.602/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.426/srvg.
2012 Kelly Eisenberg $0.401/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.420/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.474/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.458/srvg. Kelly Eisenberg $0.457/srvg.

Although the cost of frankfurters was already rising, between 2009 and 2010 there was a noticeable jump of more than $0.13. On Molokai and Lanai, the cost of each hot dog serving increased by more than $0.21.

The jump occurred when the state switched from mixed-meat hot dogs to all-beef hot dogs.

Dane Yamasaki, who sold Sugardale hot dogs to schools on Oahu in 2009, said that he was confused about why the state decided to make the switch.

“I can understand if it’s there was a problem [with my hot dog],” he said. “What I don’t understand is why they’re going to all beef.”

He said that education department officials refuse to answer his questions about why they decided to change to all-beef dogs.

School Food Services Director Glenna Owens said that she does not know why the state changed its hot dog preferences. She said the decision was made by the school menu planning committee.

The cost to the state per lunch was $4.20 in 2009. Today the cost is $5.00, according to Sandy Goya, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.

That price increase was passed on to students. School lunch prices in Hawaii most recently increased last year.

In 2009 students paid $1.25, now secondary students pay $2.50. Costs have also been rising nationally.

How much do you value our journalism?

Civil Beat focuses exclusively on the kind of journalism most at risk of disappearing – in-depth, investigative and enterprise coverage of important local issues. While producing this type of journalism isn’t cheap, you won’t find our content hidden behind a paywall. We also never worry about upsetting advertisers – because we don’t allow any. As a nonprofit newsroom, we rely on donations from readers like you to help keep our stories free and accessible to everyone. If you value our journalism, show us with your support.


About the Author