School lunch prices to increase again

COVINGTON — Local school lunch prices will increase again due to a federal mandate.

The Newton County Board of Education approved a recommendation from Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews to increase student meal prices 10 cents at both the elementary and secondary levels next school year.

Elementary student lunch prices will increase from $1.60 to $1.70, and secondary lunch prices will increase from $1.85 to $1.95.

“Unfortunately, we have to increase our prices based on the paid lunch equity calculator,” said Jan Loomans, director of Operational Services at NCSS.

Adult lunch prices will remain at $3. Adult meal prices are set at the total actual cost of a lunch meal, plus the value of the USDA foods received by the district, as required, according to NCSS.

Breakfast meal prices also will remain at the current level.

“Newton County School System meal prices remain below nearby counties with similar menus,” Loomans said.

The federal mandate, called the National School Lunch Program: School Food Service Account Revenue Amendments Related to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, requires that meal prices must increase to an amount equal to the federal reimbursement rate over the next eight years.

The meal price target for fiscal year 2014 is $2.59 for paid meals. The increases are necessary to begin progressing toward meeting the USDA rule, according to NCSS.

Last year, NCSS increased lunches by 10 cents for elementary and secondary students and 25 cents for adults. The mandate was implemented the year before, but NCSS opted not to increase the prices until last year. Before that, NCSS had not increased student meal prices since the 2005-06 school year.