Lunch prices may increase in Oconee County schools by 10 cents during the coming academic year, according to a school nutrition budget proposed to the Oconee County Board of Education.
Board members were presented with a proprosal to increase all lunches by 10 cents during Monday night's meeting. This is the second year that Oconee school officials have requested the board approve a meal price increase. In 2011, breakfast prices increased by 20 cents and lunch by 25 cents.
Oconee School Nutrition Director Susan Elsner said parents shouldn't be surprised if meal price increases become an annual event. The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, which was approved by President Barack Obama in 2010, requires that schools maintain meal prices so that federal reinbursements only support students on the free and reduced meal plan, Elsner said.
Lack of state monetary support and increased employee health care costs also contribute to price increases.
"Every year when I look at budget numbers and I look at the revenue side, I don't discount the state because I don't ever count on it," Elsner said. "The state has a pot of money that they divide between all the people on the school lunch programs. Well, that pot of money stays the same and school costs continue to rise. So each year, there's just a little bit less."
Student lunches will also see meal increases due to new federal dietary guidelines, which include the requirement of a fruit or vegetable with each meal and require schools to provide a wider choice of fruits or vegtables.
"In the years past, if they didn't want to take a half cup of fruit or vegetable, they didn't have to," Elsner said. "We would give them grief about that at the cashier stand, but they didn't have to take it."
Elsner said that, if approved, the meal price increases would not include breakfast costs. She also said that students on the free or reduced meal plan would remain unaffected.
The Board of Education will vote on the proposed meal price increases during the regular session on June 11.