By Craig Shoup
Times-Junction Staff Writer
The South Central Local Schools Board of Education voted to raise lunch prices to $2.25 for grades Kindergarten through eighth grade and $2.50 in grades nine through 12.Rising lunch prices continue to be an issue at schools. Last year, South Central had to adjust lunch menus to reflect healthier alternatives for entree, sides and snack options. During the July 21 meeting, the board of education posed the question about whether raising prices will help chew into the $30,804.85 deficit that is being covered by the general fund. Superintendent David Brand said many schools do not have self-sustaining lunch programs. He said he wants to reduce the deficit. The state has mandated a paid lunch equity. The state says that $2.65 per lunch should be the minimum. Instead of forcing schools to meet the price all at once, they are allowing schools to gradually meet the standard pricing. Brand said schools not meeting the expected pricing are asked to raise lunch prices 10 cents per year. Board president Bryan Hamman asked Brand to compile as much information about lunch participation available. He said the board needed to see more information about the program before raising the prices. Board members questioned if raising prices would help increase participation for lunch. With participation down and fewer options on the menu, board member Leann Palm questioned how much is too much. "The problem is you want to raise it enough to not always be in the red, yet with the lunches already down, I don't know if we raise it too much if we will be causing ourselves more of a problem with lowering participation even more," said Palm. As the menu has evolved to meet new standards, the number of students packing lunches has increased. Board member Jeff Oney inquired about what is causing the drop in lunch participation. He asked Brand if the change in menu is the cause. "I don't think you can probably point to one thing. I'm sure we could find there are some who decided to pack after the change in menu," he said. "I would say the majority has to do with the law changes and requirements we have to meet." Brand said costs have risen in the food service department because it is more expensive to purchase fresh produce or healthier alternative snacks. "I do think they work hard as a full staff not to overcook or undercook the number of meals," he added. "We're not uncommon by being in the red." "Are we cooking the lunches the kids want?" asked Hamman. Board member Mike West said there are several media outlets reporting that lunch participation is down across the board. He said the lunches are down because of menu requirements. Oney suggested the school look at other schools who have seen a drop in participation to see how they combated the new menu standards. "There are things we can do to be more efficient to see what foods to buy," noted Brand. "Also the kids on free and reduced lunch, they need to be buying. It hurts us when I have free lunch and I'm packing everyday. "If we could be getting full reimbursment for no cost out of my pocket to buy a lunch and get subsidized by the government, but I choose to pack my peanut butter and jelly at my own cost, why is that when we have a free option?" noted Brand. "Do we know what the kids like?" asked Hamman. Brand said he was unaware if the department tracks lunches based on popularity. The board accepted the following resignations; • Janet Weatherbie - Resignation due to retirement, effective September 1, • Brian Abrams - resignation. Michele Fisher was approved as the High School Administrative Assistant with 25 years experience. She will earn $17.10 and her contract for the 2014-2015 school year is 225 days. The following were approved for extra-curricular positions for the 2014-2015 school year: • Sarah Lucha - High School FFA Advisor. • Rachel Leber - Middle School Volleyball Coach. • Kristen Giles - Middle School Volleyball Coach. • Dakota Yost - Volunteer Middle School Volleyball Assistant Coach.