“This is something we had to do to meet federal guidelines,” Superintendent Bobby Hathcock said after the Board of Education unanimously approved the price increase for school lunches at Tuesday night’s meeting. “We didn’t have any choice.”
Judy Simmons, child nutrition program director for the School System, said the price increase was required by the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010, which went into effect July 1, 2011.
In accordance with the act, school food authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program are required to provide the same level of support for lunches served to students who are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches as they are for lunches served to students eligible for free lunches.
Simmons said the cost for school meals must fall within a certain price range for the School System to qualify to participate in the National School Lunch Program.
She said the total cost adjustment in lunch prices for the 2012-2013 school year is 4.18 percent.
Simmons said it is possible the School System could see another increase in prices next year.
“We had one (increase) last year, and we have to do it again this year,” she said.
The cost for school breakfasts for Pell City students, faculty and visitors will remain the same as last year, $1.25 for students, $1.50 for school employees and $2 for visitors.
Lunches for students in kindergarten through sixth-grade will increase by 10 cents, from $1.80 to $1.90. Students in seventh- through 12th-grades will see a 15 cent hike in lunch costs, from $2.10 to $2.25. School lunches include milk.
School employees will pay 25 cents more for lunches this year, an increase from $2.50 to $2.75. Visitors will still pay $3.50 for lunches and $2 for breakfasts.
Simmons said it is important that the School System continue to participate in the National School Lunch Program because of federal funds the system receives by participating in the program.
She said 53 percent of the students in the School System qualify for free and reduced lunches. At two system schools more than 70 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Simmons said the number of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches has slowly continued to rise.
“It’s the economy,” she said, adding that some parents remain out of work.
She said the School System has done all it can to maintain low meal prices.
“The staff is at a bare minimum,” Simmons said. “We have to cut everywhere we can.”
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