Parents should plan for an extra $1.25 a week per child when doling out lunch money to Sulphur Springs students. Trustees Monday night approved a 25-cent increase per lunch meal.
Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students will pay $2.25 per lunch meal starting in August, while middle and high school students will pay $2.50.
The rate increase is to meet federal guidelines established in “National School Lunch Program: School Food Service Account Revenue Amendments Related to Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.” The interim rule requires food service authorities participating in the National School Lunch Program “to ensure sufficient funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account for lunches served to students not eligible for free or reduced price meals,” according to Sulphur Springs Independent School District Director of Child Nutrition Programs Rickie Elliott.
In essence, schools were given the option of either adjusting their weighted average lunch price by increasing the cost of the meal or coming up with non-federal funds to add to the non-profit school food service account. Districts aren’t required to increase the paid lunch cost by more than 10 cents per year.
Two years ago, SSISD decided to increase the rate by 25 cents, which covered the rate increase for two years. The Food and Nutrition Service this year reminded school food authorities that schools are required to make adjustments to food prices again this year, as the weighted average charged during the 2013-14 school year was less than $2.65.
Elliott surveyed seven other area school districts to compare current lunch prices, and recommended again adopting the quarter increase, effective for the next two years to meet the goal.
Only one district, Greenville, currently charges less per lunch meal than the new SSISD rates; Greenville elementary students pay $2.10 per lunch, while secondary students pay $2.30.
SSMS and SSHS’s new rate would would match the rate Paris schools currently charge all of their students, with SSISD elementary students paying 25 cents less than Paris elementary students.
Even with the increase, SSISD’s rate would still be less than Mount Pleasant, Lindale, Rains, Rockwall and Royse City.
“This should help us reach our goal quicker. All districts throughout the nation are working on this,” said Elliott.
“So we’ve got to get to $2.65? What happens if the state or federal government says we have to increase it?” asked school board member Kerry Wright.
“We have no answer for what would happen. We are chasing a goal. We believe there will be a final point we will get to when they will be satisfied we have all made the effort to get there — where we need to be,” Elliott said.
She explained that 63 percent of SSISD students are on a free or reduced meal plan, based on the established guidelines for family incomes. That leaves 37 percent who are required to pay full meal prices.
Elliott also during the July 21 school board meeting presented trustees with an update of food categories and products offered by various companies through Region VIII Food Purchasing Co-op. As part of the cooperative, SSISD will be able to purchase from any or all of the categories at the group rate. Other benefits of the co-op are that SSISD won’t have to obtain independent bids for food and supply purchases on the list; and Region VIII has already made sure all state procurement regulations are met.
The list includes three companies to choose from for milk, dairy and juice products; six companies for fresh fruits and vegetables; one vendor for bread and one for tortillas; a beverage and smart-snack vendor; fruit juice and slush vendor; six companies for chemicals, sanitation, equipment, paper, plastic and small ware supplies; two companies for frozen desserts; and a general grocery vendor.
Also Monday, trustees approved the beverage contract from Coca-Cola Bottling Co. in Tyler. District Business Manager Sherry McGraw noted that Coca-Cola currently provides beverages for SSISD, but that five-year contract expires July 31. The company was the only one to submit a bid for the service. McGraw said the company would give $30,000 in sponsorship over the next five years: $10,000 the first year and $5,000 each successive year.
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