Beaufort News

School board raises lunch prices

The price students pay for lunch in Beaufort County's public schools will rise by 10 cents this fall.

A vote Tuesday by the county Board of Education set the cost of elementary school lunches at $1.45 and secondary-school lunches at $1.95.

The hike is required by a federal law passed last year, said Phyllis White, the district's operational services chief.

The law requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to charge students paying in full for their lunches the same amount as the federal government pays to cover the cost of meals for low-income students.

The national program provides free or reduced-price meals to children whose families meet certain income requirements.

School districts that charge less than the federal reimbursement rate must gradually increase the price of lunches until they match the federal rate, which is $2.72 per meal.

"Every year we're going to be having to raise the meal prices, unfortunately," White said.

The district's lunch program is self-sustaining and does not use money from the district's general fund, except to pay some benefits of food-service workers. Any proceeds are reinvested into the program to pay for costs such as new equipment or nutrition programs, White said.

White said the additional revenue will help the district break even in its food-service fund, which has had losses for the past two years. A capital plan will outline how the district intends to spend any additional money raised through meal sales, she said.

The price change will not affect students who qualify for free lunches. About half of the district's nearly 20,000 students receive free or reduced-price meals.

The district last raised the price of school lunches in 2009 to cover escalating food costs. That was the first increase since 2005.