Lunch prices for Stephens County elementary school students will increase next year unless the school system qualifies for a federal program that would actually offer free lunch.
Last week, the Stephens County Board of Education unanimously approved increasing the price of an elementary school student lunch from $1.25 to $1.50.
Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten said it is not something the system wants to do.
However, she said federal regulations require it.
“The new regulations with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act have a provision in there that says at a point, our meal prices have to equal the reimbursement rate and ours are really far off,” said Whiten. “They do not give you a timeline on getting that into line, so we are doing that gradually. We did not raise elementary prices last year and our prices are still some of the lowest in the area.”
All other lunch prices will remain the same. In addition, the Stephens County School System will continue to offer free breakfasts to all students.
Despite the approved increase, the school system is actually pursuing an avenue to avoid the increase.
According to Whiten, the school system is applying for something called a “Community Eligibility” option.
She said this federal program would make all student lunches at the county’s elementary schools and Stephens County Middle School free.
“That would enable us to offer not only free breakfast, but free lunch in elementary and middle schools,” said Whiten. “It would not be profitable for us to do in high school.”
Whiten said that the school system hopes to hear soon whether it receives entry into that program. If Stephens County gets accepted, Whiten said that program would start next school year.