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School lunch prices may be headed up
lunch tray

Liberty County school board members face a decision on rising prices at the school lunch cashier.

School system officials are proposing increasing the prices charged for school lunches for students who pay full price and for adults.

“We are following USDA guidelines on price increases,” said Arnold Jackson, chief operations officer for the school system.

Under the proposal, fully paid lunches at elementary schools would increase from $2.15 to $2.40. Fully paid lunches at the county’s middle and high schools would go from $2.50 to $2.75. Lunches for adults would go from $3.50 to $4 and breakfasts for adults would increase from $2.20 to $2.50. The school system provided 6,500 lunches daily, and of its more than 10,000 students, 68% are eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

Inflation, though, has hit school nutrition, school system officials pointed out. The cost of ingredients and labor needed to make school lunch has gone up more than 20%. The food cost increase has led to the school nutrition department to face a budget shortfall and funds were used from fund balance to offset the higher costs.

The school system budgeted spending $7.8 million on school food and nutrition services in the current fiscal year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has mandated that fully paid students must be charged the difference in the reimbursement rates for free meals and paid meals so that paid meals are not being subsidized by the federal government.

The United States Department of Agriculture has mandated that fully paid students must be charged the difference in the reimbursement rates for free meals and the reimbursement rate for paid meals so that paid meals are not being subsidized by the free and reduced reimbursement from the federal government.

In order for the school system to remain in compliance with USDA regulations, the USDA determined the school system should increase its paid student meal prices.

The system provides 5,000 breakfasts to its students each day. All students can receive a free breakfast for the 2022–23 school year.

“Therefore, there is no need to adjust breakfast prices for students,” Jackson told board members at Tuesday’s meeting.

Board members are expected to take action on the proposal at their next meeting.

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