The Liberty County Board of Education agreed last week to offer all children — regardless of ability to pay — free school breakfast for the 2014-15 school year and for three years thereafter. The board of education also agreed to raise the price of student lunches by 10 cents in order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Schools are not allowed to use excess from free-meal reimbursements to subsidize the paid lunch cost, school officials said.
“Too many children are showing up at school hungry, and hungry children can’t learn,” School Nutrition Director Dr. Chris Reddick said. “Eating breakfast at school can help families save time in the morning. And knowing that school breakfast is healthy and a great value is a huge relief for parents.”
Because the Liberty County School System has more than 70 percent of its students receiving free and reduced-priced meals, the district is eligible for the national Provision II Breakfast Program. The district nutrition program would cover the difference in the cost of the breakfast meals not covered by reimbursements received from the federal government, school officials explained.
“Our first year is what they call a base year, and we will still need to take student ID numbers, but we won’t charge for the meal,” Reddick said. “This will give us our numbers to then file our claims. For example, if 60 percent of our children who eat breakfast are free, 30 percent of our children who eat are reduced and 10 percent of our children who eat breakfast (pay the full cost), then our reimbursement for meals will be just that. They would reimburse 60 percent of the total breakfast meals served at the free rate, and so on.”
This year, for students who pay the full meal prices, Liberty County charges $1 for breakfast in elementary school and $1.25 in middle and high schools. Lunches currently cost $1.75 in elementary school and $2 in middle and high schools. Adults pay $3 for school meals.
Next school year, lunches will cost $1.85 in elementary school and $2.10 in middle and high schools. Adults will pay $3.25. Reduced-price lunches will cost 40 cents in the 2014-15 school year.
“Equity in school-lunch pricing requires school-nutrition programs to charge students for paid meals at a price that is, on average, equal to the difference between the free-meal reimbursement and paid reimbursement,” Assistant Superintendent of Operations John Lyles said. “Therefore, the school nutrition program must increase the price of the paid student lunch by 10 cents to cover the expense. Additionally, the school nutrition program must also increase the price of the adult paid lunch to cover the actual adult-lunch cost.”
The district’s nutrition department also compared the school-meal prices it charges to meal prices charged by other Coastal Georgia school systems. School administrators shared their analysis with BoE members during a Feb. 25 work session.
Bryan County charges $1.50 for breakfast in elementary school. Middle- and high-school students are not served school breakfast. Bryan County charges $2.25 for school lunches in elementary, middle and high schools. Long County does not charge for student meals. Adults must pay $3.50. Evans, Bulloch and Wayne counties currently charge more for school lunches than Liberty does.
Reddick and her nutrition staff are promoting the importance of eating a healthy breakfast by observing National School Breakfast Week this week.
On Monday, Fort Stewart soldiers volunteered as guest servers in several school cafeterias as part of the observance. In addition, Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington signed a proclamation in honor of National School Breakfast Week at Liberty Elementary School, and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas Jr. signed one at Button Gwinnett Elementary.