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Hall school lunches will go up a nickel
Federal study leads to the increase in cost
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A new federal guideline means a 5 cents increase in the price of Hall County school lunches.

The price for elementary school lunches will rise to $1.45 and middle and high school will be $1.55 beginning in August.

"This is based on studies conducted by the (United States Department of Agriculture)," said Claude Mwanda, school nutrition accounting manager for the Georgia Department of Education. "They determined the cost to produce a meal is much more than what meal price is across the board."

The price increase only affects students presently paying for lunch.

"The price for students who pay needs to move toward, and eventually reach, the same price level as the amount of money the federal government sends us to cover them," Hall Schools Nutrition Director Cookie Palmer said.

The government pays systems $2.74 for free lunches, $2.34 for reduced lunches and 28 cents for paid lunches.

Gainesville City lunch prices, however, will not be affected this year.

"The state school nutrition finance and budget office gives you a formula and you compare your current school lunch prices to inflation," said Tiffany Lommel, Gainesville City Schools nutrition director. "If you meet a certain threshold, you have to raise prices a minimum of 5 cents."

Lommel said Gainesville City did not meet that threshold this year, but might have to re-evaluate prices during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Lunch prices for these students will remain $1.25, $1.50 and $1.75 for elementary, middle and high school students, respectively.

Some Georgia school districts are raising lunch prices as much as 25 cents.

"There's some who haven't increased in 10, 15 years," said Mwanda said.

Georgia systems charge anywhere from 60 cents to $2.50 for student lunches depending on the amount of funding schools get from the federal government for free and reduced-price lunch, Mwanda said.

The reason for the discrepancy between systems deals with Equity in School Lunch Pricing Fact Sheet sent out from the USDA in March.

Because of this year's relatively low food price inflation, and the ability of systems to round down, school systems with "lunch prices below $2.46 in School Year 2010-11 would have to increase lunch prices by 5 cents or not at all," the memo states.

Student breakfast prices will not be affected in either system, and neither will the number of students on free and reduced lunch.

"The only effect I would see is more people being interested in applying," Lommel said.

School systems received the interim guideline Tuesday, but the official rule does not go into effect until July 1.

Palmer said this is the first school lunch price increase she has seen in Hall County schools since she arrived in 2001.

"We would not have raised this year except we got the federal mandate," she said.