WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When children of American servicemembers who are living with their parents overseas go back to school after the holidays, the Grinch will be waiting for them in the cafeteria.
Lunch prices at all overseas schools operated by the Department of Defense will increase .35 cents starting January 3, 2012. That brings the price of a school lunch up to $2.40 for elementary school students and $2.55 for secondary students, according to a Navy document released last week.
Troops in places such as Japan, Korea, Germany or England can have their families with them, and the Department of Defense runs a system of schools on overseas bases for those children.
The price increase is the first in nearly eight years for overseas defense schools. The last price boost was in 2004 when the cost of a lunch went up by a dime.
The Department of Defense is undergoing painful budget problems, but the price boost is not its idea. It's mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that requires school lunch prices keep pace with increased food and operating costs.
Dependents overseas already pay more than the average public school student in the United States, according to the School Nutrition Association.
"The average price for full-paid lunch has reached $1.93 for elementary schools, $2.14 for middle schools and $2.20 for high schools," in the United States, according to Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman at the school association.
But the increase does not affect children who qualify to receive free or reduced-price meals. The reduced lunches will still cost .40 cents a day.
"Just like everything else, the cost of quality food, labor and equipment increase each year, and this increase will help ensure that school food authorities have funding available to support serving nutritious meals to all students," said Charles Clymer, a Navy official who overseas school lunches.
The school lunches are provided by two nonprofits.