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|School board ponders price increases for student, employee meals|
Higher fuel and food prices may require the Ouachita Parish School Board to increase its meal prices for students and school personnel.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the school board delayed taking action after food services director JoLynne Correro asked the board to consider bumping up the prices.
Board member Scott Robinson requested that the board allow business manager Richie Garrett to discuss the figures with Correro and report to the school board at its next regular meeting in two weeks.
The current cost to produce each lunch meal is $2.77 and $1.39 for breakfast meal. The cost includes food, paper and cleaning supplies, labor and equipment purchase/repair.
Correro told the board that according to a Food Research and Action Council report, in 2007 the price of milk increased by 17 percent, rice and pasta increased by 13 percent, cheese increased by 15 percent and bread increased by 12 percent.
She said the cost of those staple items is expected to increase again next school year.
Costs will also increase after the two new schools - an elementary school in Sterlington and middle school in Richwood - are completed and staff is hired for cafeterias at the new schools.
Correro suggested the school board increase breakfast for students by 25 cents and lunch by 50 cents.
Adult employee breakfast meals would increase by 25 cents and lunch would increase $1 under Correro's plan.
She said the increases are needed to ensure the child nutrition program is self-supporting.
"Over the past year fuel cost has gone up, and everything is going up," Correro said. "It's the same thing going on in our business."
"If we keep offering food with all the choices we offer, we have to address meal prices to continue doing what we're doing," she said.
Correro said the school system will continue buying quality food, adding that the system buys quality food for a decent price.
"That's been a very big plus for us," she said.
The proposed prices increases for meals at cafeterias in the parish school system would generate some $2.1 million annually, including an additional $635,127 in new revenue.
Breakfast meal prices last increased during the 2003-04 school year. Lunch meal prices have not increased in Ouachita Parish schools since 1992.
This past school year, food services produced more than two million meals for lunch. Correro did not say how many meals were prepared for breakfast.
Correro contacted the Bossier Parish school system, which has similar demographics as Ouachita Parish Schools.
Currently, Bossier Parish elementary students pay $1.45 for lunch, and high school students pay $1.60 for lunch.
If Ouachita Parish adopts the new prices Correro proposed, its elementary students would pay $1.50 for lunch, and high school students would pay $1.75 for lunch.
Correro said Bossier Parish school representatives told her the school system is considering increasing its current meal prices.
Ouachita school board member Susan Spence, who is the director of the summer feeding program in Morehouse Parish, said the school system's nutritional services have to cover its cost of operation.
"I think there is a real need for this," Spence said, who was in favor of approving Correro's proposed price increases at the school board's meeting.
The school board eventually decided to delay action until all options are considered.
"For a family with four or five kids in school, that's a big increase," board member Jerry Hicks said.
Robinson added, "I think a 50 percent increase on elementary students seems too strong. This will hit about half of the student population, and 50 percent of students who pay for their own lunch will bare the full brunt of the raise."
Some board members suggested that instead of the 50 percent increase, the school board should consider adopting a 25-percent increase with the option to increase it during the school year if needed.
Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber suggested the school board consider a 25-percent increase with a reduction in menu choices.
In other business, the school board named The Ouachita Citizen its Official Journal for the period of July 1-June 30, 2009.