10 cents more

Published 9:08 am Thursday, April 11, 2013

JACKSON – The price of lunch for Northampton County public school students who purchase that meal will increase again next school year as the district gradually comes into compliance with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

On Monday evening, the Northampton County Board of Education approved an increase of the paid student lunch from $1.70 to $1.80 for the 2013-14 school year. The measure passed in a 6-1 vote with Board member Rhonda Taylor voicing opposition.

In 2011, the board agreed to slowly increase the price of paid school lunches to meet a 25-cent raise required by Section 205 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-296), which requires schools to raise their paid lunch prices to the same as the federal reimbursement for free lunches.

“This year the $1.80 is closer than we should have been (two) years ago,” said Finance Officer Joe Holloway, who presented the decision paper to the board.

Marjorie Edwards moved to approve the action and Donald Johnson offered a second.

During discussion, Phil Matthews noted the board is increasing the price of paid lunches because they are required to do so by law.

“This is a federal law, (it’s) required, we’re not raising the price just to raise the price,” he said.

The measure passed with Taylor giving the only dissenting vote as she has in previous votes on the matter. In the past, she has cited the cost burden on parents whose children pay for lunch.

“I think every child should get free lunch,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

Following the vote, Vice Chair Erica Smith-Ingram commented on concerns about the district’s procedures when a child could not pay for their lunch.

“I was wondering if we could get an update on that and if there was still an issue with students not paying and a deficit being left, but as well what supplemental meal are those students being provided,” she questioned. “I’ve had two parents call me and complain about their child not being fed that day because they didn’t have money for their account.”

She added she knew of notices that were sent home when the account is getting low, but she felt there should be something the school can provide.

“Even a piece of fruit, something of substance that we can provide to give that child so that he or she won’t be inhibited from learning,” Ingram said.

She requested a survey to be done of the schools to see how they handle those cases.

Child Nutrition Director Carolyn Williams said there is procedure for the elementary schools where if a student cannot pay for lunch they are referred to the principal.

“Child Nutrition cannot, by federal law, give away food,” she said. “However, I believe we do have some funding that they will put aside and let the district reimburse Child Nutrition for it.”

She added there are notices sent out when lunch accounts get low.

Ingram asked about the procedure for middle school students.

“The middle school students, we do not have a recourse for them if they don’t have their money,” Williams responded. “Usually they are referred to the office.”

Clinton Williams questioned Carolyn Williams about a procedure plan she had previously presented the board.

She said the board never gave a decision on the plan.

Ingram suggested the board look at that plan again to “tie up loose ends.”

Majorie Edwards agreed.

“I’d hate to see any child not get something to eat,” Edwards said. “We need to put something in place if a child doesn’t have their money.”

Carolyn Williams said the district typically sees children not being able to pay in the beginning of the year during an application process.

“We have 30 days that we have to receive applications in, and it doesn’t matter if they’re free or reduced or paid, if we do not receive those applications in a timely manner we are not allowed to serve that child,” she said. “We can serve them on their old status for the first 30 days, but after that if no application is received they have to go to a full paid lunch.”