School lunch prices could rise again next year for the second year in a row.
Prices could increase 5 cents -- to $1.50 for elementary-school students and $2 for secondary-school students.
Beaufort County School District staff told the school board Tuesday night that the increases are necessary to retain U.S. Department of Agriculture reimbursements for the free and reduced-price lunch program. The USDA gives the district $2.79 for each free lunch, district chief of operations Phyllis White said. Federal rules require the district make continuing efforts to charge a price that is within 28 cents of that amount, she said. The district began moving toward that amount when it raised lunch prices last year by a dime to $1.45 and $1.95, respectively.
As long as the district shows progress toward meeting that goal, it is in compliance and will continue to receive nearly $6 million a year in USDA reimbursements.
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District staff also recommended a 5-cent increase for the 2013-14 school year. That would bring school lunch prices up to $1.55 for elementary schoolers and $2.05 for middle and high school students.
Some board members expressed concern at the continued increases.
Julie Bell asked if more families applied for free and reduced-price lunch this year after the 10-cent increase last year.
Applications for the program increased by 3 percent this year, but it's hard to tell if that's due to the increased price or the economy, White said.
About 55 percent of district students received either free or reduced-price school lunches this year.
"It seems to me (an increase) would trigger a least the reduced number to go up dramatically," Bell said. "Twenty cents a day is significant, especially if you have five kids."
The board is expected to vote on the proposed increase at its May 1 meeting.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.