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Decatur's school meal prices stay the same, for now

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Decatur City Schools' meal prices will not change for 11th year in a row, but this could be the last year that parents and students enjoy 1996 prices.

The Decatur school board approved the 2007-08 meal prices, which include $1.50 lunches for elementary students, $1.75 lunches for middle school and high school students and 75 cents for student breakfasts.

Child Nutrition Program Director Julia Senn said economic factors like high gas prices and the drought could make it more difficult to avoid increases next year.

CNP must keep about $1.6 million in reserve to cover three months of operating expenses.

"I'm not going to go up unless we have to," Senn said. "That would be the last resort."

Senn said the rising costs of items like milk, fruit and vegetables are affecting the program's bottom line more each day. While overall lunch and breakfast prices didn't change, she said a la carte items like milk will probably increase from 30 cents to 50 cents this year. Fruit drinks may rise from 75 cents to $1.

She said she is particularly worried about produce prices because they aren't set as other food products are during summer board meetings.

Rising costs force Senn and her staff to watch expenses closely. She said the CNP managers are conscious of what is on their shelves, making sure that no item is too expensive or goes to waste.

She said the school system tries to save on travel costs by limiting the number of deliveries to the school. For instance, schools receive fresh bread only twice a week.

The school system buys a large number of items off the state bid list.

The state has food and food-service companies submit price bids on certain items and, because most of the state's school systems purchase items off this list, the prices are lower than if a school system went solo in seeking bids for a certain item.

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