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Lunch price to rise

Madison Mathews • May 7, 2012 at 10:36 PM

The price of school lunches will increase by 25 cents next year.

On Monday, the Johnson City Board of Education unanimously approved the increase for full-priced paid lunches at the request of Food Services Supervisor Karen McGahey.

The increase means that paid elementary lunches will rise from $2 to $2.25 next year, while paid intermediate, middle and high school lunches will increase from $2.25 to $2.50.

This is the first meal price increase since 2008.

“We do try diligently to keep the price of meals as stable as possible. Our biggest concern is those families that just missed the cutoff for free or reduced priced meals. We’re very aware of that and very concerned about that,” McGahey said.

McGahey said there were three reasons behind the increase for the 2012-13 school year, including new meal pattern changes, catching up to food costs that have been increasing since 2008 and a new federal requirement that will have them raise meal prices at least 14 cents this year.

To comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which will go into effect July 1, school food service officials participating in the National School Lunch Program must ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for meals served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals.

“So, we’re going to have to start increasing our meal prices for paying students on a regular basis until we reach this federal level of $2.79 or until the federal law changes,” McGahey said.

While the paid lunches will increase by 25 cents, reduced price meals will remain capped at the federal maximum of 40 cents per lunch.

In addition to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, McGahey said there are other federal guidelines that will go into effect in July regarding foods they must have on their menu, which will drive food costs up.

McGahey said these are big changes in food services and the decision to raise the price of next year’s lunches in order to meet new guidelines was not taken lightly.

“It is huge and that’s one of the reasons why we were really not wanting to raise prices the last few years with the economy the way it is,” she said.

In other business, the board voted to approve the proposed 2012-13 budget of $64,921,948 to be taken before the Johnson City Commission Thursday for discussion.

The projected $64 million budget will be in the black if the City Commission approves a list of needs totaling more than $5 million.

Finance Director Pam Cox said next year’s Basic Education Program, or BEP, funding doesn’t look very favorable.

“The BEP looks like it’s going to be down ... $88,000 from the $500,000 that we have increased in the current budget,” she said.

The board has not yet decided where possible cuts would be made if the City Commission doesn’t approve the proposed budget.

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