Richmond County may raise lunch prices for first time in more than a decade

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News 12 First at Five, May, 7, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Richmond County School System says they are also looking to raise school lunch prices for the first time in 15 years.

The RCSS says they are looking to increase prices 55 cents for elementary school children and 65 cents for middle school and high schoolers.

Janet Mutombo has served up lunches in Richmond County for 30 years. "We don't cut cost when it comes to children and nutrition."

And that may come at a cost, after a recent audit found the school system's lunch prices were dramatically below the national average.

The MGT audit proposes raising the cost of a lunch by 50 cents per lunch throughout the county, but Josephine Mack, the Nutrition director of RCSS says, "We are going to do just a little bit more."

The proposal would take a lunch for elementary school students from 95 cents to $1.50; middle schoolers and high schoolers could go from $1.10 to $1.75.

"Well it's past time really, but for sure this year. We don't have a choice, we need to go up on the meal prices." adds Mack.

If the proposal passes, the new prices will still be under the national average; where elementary school lunches average $1.66, middle school a$1.85 and high school, $1.90.

Mack, "It's unreal, huh?"

But the added cost is very real for parents and grandparents like Willie Hunt. "It's fair for them to get on the national average but it's just the crisis these days that's causing the problem."

A crisis not only for the consumer, "This effects industry too. Our industry partners who provide us with food, they have to cover their line too and it's going to be hard." says Mack.

But Janet agrees, it's time, "With the food cost going up, we haven't had an increase, but the quality, they're getting more quality meals."

Quality, like whole wheat pizza and buns, milk and veggies that the district does not want to lose.

And that's the big thing here, the district says it doesn't want to skimp on their services either.

Currently, RCSS says 33,000 students and adults are offered breakfast and lunch in the district's 59 schools. The district is estimated to serve more than 14,000 breakfast meals everyday and nearly 25,000 lunches.

Right now, the 14,500 breakfast meals are free as are free lunches during summer programs. If the proposal passes, children can still get two meals a day for $1.50 or a $1.75 during the school year.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal in June.

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