(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Clarkson presented the measure to the Bedford County Board of Education, which approved the increase at its regular monthly meeting last week.
The change comes as a result of the USDA's Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The Act "allows the USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, opportunity to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children," according to the agency's website.
"The last time we raised lunch prices was in 2008," said Clarkson. Students in grades pre-K through 12 will now pay $2.25 for lunch each day. That rate is comparable to other area school systems, with Coffee County, Marshall County and Manchester City and Fayetteville City schools charging K-5 students $2.25 and middle and high school students up to $2.50.
Only Tullahoma City Schools charge less, with $1.80 daily for K-5, $2.10 for middle schoolers and $2.15 for those in high school.
Students in Humphreys County and Franklin Special School District pay the most, with ranges from $2.50 to $2.75.
"With the new regulations, our whole meal pattern is changing," said Clarkson.
In addition to offering students more fruits and vegetables, the program provides that only lower-fat milk options be served to children over age 2, and ensures that water will be made available and accessible throughout the day. These standards will also apply to child care settings.
Complying with those changes means an increase in operating costs for the system, but with 69 percent of county students qualifying for free or reduced lunches, "I want the impact to our students to be as small as possible," Clarkson said.
Teacher lunch prices will increase from $2.75 to $3 per meal.
Earlier this year, county schools became part of another USDA program, "The Universal Meal Service Option," which provides a schools in high-poverty areas the ability to provide free breakfasts to all students, regardless of income.
That effort will continue through the upcoming school year.