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School lunch prices to stay the same
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An expected increase in student lunch prices will not take place this upcoming school year, after the Georgia Department of Education gave the Newton County School System approval to maintain its prices.

In March, school officials had said that the school lunch prices would increase by 10 cents — with elementary school lunch prices increasing from $1.60 to $1.70, and secondary school lunches increasing from $1.85 to $1.95. The 10-cent increase was approved by the Newton County Board of Education.

However, Jan Loomans, NCSS director of operational services, said Tuesday that because of a recent revision of the USDA regulation for meal price equity, prices won’t need to be increased.

“The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 included a provision known as ‘Meal Price Equity.’ This provision requires that all school nutrition programs increase meal prices annually (based on a formula) until the price that paid students pay is equal to the reimbursement rate per meal for free students,“ Loomans said.

This was a mandatory provision, but Loomans said after many school nutrition directors complained, the USDA amended the provision to state that if a school district had sufficient money in the bank to cover three months of operating expenses, the district did not have to increase meal prices.

Loomans said since the NCSS school nutrition program met the criteria, the Georgia Department of Education-School Nutrition Program’s financial support staff approved keeping its prices at its 2012-2013 levels.

The exemption for the NCSS was issued in April, after the Board approved the increase in meal prices, Loomans said.
School lunch prices will continue to be $1.60 for elementary school students and $1.85 for students at secondary schools.

Adult lunch meal prices will remain at $3, as they were increased from $2.75 to $3 last school year, Loomans said. Breakfast meal prices will remain at the current level and have not changed for four years.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which passed in December 2010, included an amendment called the National School Lunch Program: School Food Service Account Revenue.

The amendment required schools participating in the National School Lunch Program, which Newton County Schools do, to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for meals served to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Under the USDA rule, there were two ways for schools to meet the requirement, either through prices charged for paid meals or through other non-federal sources provided to the nonprofit school food service account. Newton County schools were set to increase their paid meal prices.