School lunch prices to stay the same

The Covington News - - LOCAL - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­news.com

An ex­pected in­crease in stu­dent lunch prices will not take place this up­com­ing school year, af­ter the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion gave the New­ton County School Sys­tem ap­proval to main­tain its prices.

In March, school of­fi­cials had said that the school lunch prices would in­crease by 10 cents — with el­e­men­tary school lunch prices in­creas­ing from $1.60 to $1.70, and sec­ondary school lunches in­creas­ing from $1.85 to $1.95. The 10-cent in­crease was ap­proved by the New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

How­ever, Jan Loomans, NCSS di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tional ser­vices, said Tues­day that be­cause of a re­cent re­vi­sion of the USDA reg­u­la­tion for meal price eq­uity, prices won’t need to be in­creased.

“The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 in­cluded a pro­vi­sion known as ‘Meal Price Eq­uity.’ This pro­vi­sion re­quires that all school nu­tri­tion pro­grams in­crease meal prices an­nu­ally (based on a for­mula) un­til the price that paid stu­dents pay is equal to the re­im­burse­ment rate per meal for free stu­dents,“Loomans said.

This was a manda­tory pro­vi­sion, but Loomans said af­ter many school nu­tri­tion di­rec­tors com­plained, the USDA amended the pro­vi­sion to state that if a school dis­trict had suf­fi­cient money in the bank to cover three months of op­er­at­ing ex­penses, the dis­trict did not have to in­crease meal prices.

Loomans said since the NCSS school nu­tri­tion pro­gram met the cri­te­ria, the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion-School Nu­tri­tion Pro­gram’s fi­nan­cial sup­port staff ap­proved keep­ing its prices at its 2012-2013 lev­els.

The ex­emp­tion for the NCSS was is­sued in April, af­ter the Board ap­proved the in­crease in meal prices, Loomans said.

School lunch prices will con­tinue to be $1.60 for el­e­men­tary school stu­dents and $1.85 for stu­dents at sec­ondary schools.

Adult lunch meal prices will re­main at $3, as they were in­creased from $2.75 to $3 last school year, Loomans said. Break­fast meal prices will re­main at the cur­rent level and have not changed for four years.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which passed in De­cem­ber 2010, in­cluded an amend­ment called the National School Lunch Pro­gram: School Food Ser­vice Ac­count Rev­enue.

The amend­ment re­quired schools par­tic­i­pat­ing in the National School Lunch Pro­gram, which New­ton County Schools do, to en­sure suf­fi­cient funds are pro­vided to the non­profit school food ser­vice ac­count for meals served to stu­dents who are not el­i­gi­ble for free or re­duced-price meals.

Un­der the USDA rule, there were two ways for schools to meet the re­quire­ment, ei­ther through prices charged for paid meals or through other non-fed­eral sources pro­vided to the non­profit school food ser­vice ac­count. New­ton County schools were set to in­crease their paid meal prices.

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