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School cafeterias reducing staff, raising prices

Posted August 25, 2008

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— The rough economy has many families struggling to put healthy food on the table, but imagine what it's like for a school system to feed a balanced meal to thousands of hungry kids.

Local school nutrition departments have been reducing staff, raising prices and trying to rev up revenue.

“(That’s) $800,000 more that we’re paying for milk than we did two years ago,” said Marilyn Moody, Wake County Schools’ nutrition director.

The standard meal price is up 25 cents in Durham County and 10 cents in Johnston County

In Wake and Cumberland counties, the cost of a la carte items is up anywhere from 5 to 50 cents, but the standard meal price remains the same. However, that could change.

“As everything else has gone up – food, labor, gas – it will probably follow suit,” Moody said.

Some parents have felt the pinch, which means elementary school extras such as snacks are not a priority.

“I’m seeing smaller snackables and things like that. Some children don’t have them at all,” said Jennie Privette, a teacher at Holly Springs Elementary School.

Parents have also been passing more bad checks for their children's meals.

For the 2007-08 school year, more than $30,000 worth of checks bounced in Wake County. Close to $20,000 of that has yet to be collected.

The schools hired help to stop the bad check problem this academic year.

“This contractor will pay us, literally, the face value of that check and then serve as the collection agency,” Moody said.

The schools are also trying to collect more money from the federal government. That budget increases when more students eat the cafeteria food, and schools are working hard to get those sales.

“We happen to have a very good chef here, and he spends a lot of time making sure meals are healthy and have good taste," said Glenn Horton, a teacher at Centennial Campus Middle School.


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  • AWakeMom Aug 26, 2008

    Dr. Dataclerk - I am a secretary in a school, and speaking for my school alone, I can verify that I don't even look at the applications. I hand them directly over to the cafe manager to send to CNS at RQR. What secretary in the school has the authority to approve the F/R lunch application? You should double check your facts.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Aug 26, 2008

    Parents pack your children's lunch at home along with drink/milk. It will save you money in the long run. Don't have time, then do it at night. Once the school realizes you are making their lunches/breakfast too, maybe then the prices will go back down.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Aug 26, 2008

    The program is terribly abused. Most parents are aware that it is an overworked secretary in the school office that marks the applications with a yes or no. How can this person have the authority or the time to research an application. My guess is that if 25 to 50% of the applications were verified some of the abuse would stop.

    None of what you say has any truth in it. Obviously you have not check anything out. Do so now.

  • yacs Aug 25, 2008

    "the little brats in school"

    That's how a professed Scouter describes children?

  • NCTeacher Aug 25, 2008

    Death row- I grew up the same way. I came from a single income family- one disabled, one working 2 jobs. Because I had a parent that busted their tail to make sure we had food and clothes, I never got one thin dime for lunches or tuition money. But I teach so many kids who have 2 parents that don't work because they are lazy and they get everything handed to them for free.

    I used to be very bitter about it, but I just accept it now. I am grateful that my parents didn't raise me that way and I won't do that to my children. I know the value of hard work- monetarily and mentally and what it feels like to get something on my own. I hope my children feel the same way when I have them and they grow up because it will be a c-o-l-d day in hades before I ask the system for a thing.

  • shc0729 Aug 25, 2008

    Hire one person per county to investigate the free/reduced meals applications. How does a parent who drives the largest gas guzzler,wears the latest designer clothes, lives in the country club section of town, and owns a condo @ the beach qualify for free/ or reduced meals?? The program is terribly abused. Most parents are aware that it is an overworked secretary in the school office that marks the applications with a yes or no. How can this person have the authority or the time to research an application. My guess is that if 25 to 50% of the applications were verified some of the abuse would stop.

  • bs101fly Aug 25, 2008

    "I am not going to continue to pay for people that are having three or more kids and the parents are coming across the border illegally."

    YEAH RIGHT! Tell that to your Govt. Looks to me like you'll be paying for it for the rest of YOUR life!

    Cutting staff and jacking prices, must mean more bond ammo!
    Folks face it, you'll never be able to afford squat, cause wake county schools need a bond every other hour!

    Property taxes = house payments = you'll be paying more for both next year IF you don't learn to vote no!!!

  • celong Aug 25, 2008

    DeathRow, it is people like you who have carried the burdens for all people. The rich can get a nice tax lawyer, the poor can get so much help it is funny. If you add their food stamps, medical care, housing authority, help with uniforms, school supplies, light bill, help with heat, college, Habitat for Humanity, well they make way more than hard working citizens. We would be so much better of if we could weed out the cheaters both rich and poor who abuse the systems in which they live.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Aug 25, 2008

    I am a median income parent. Actually, low-medium for the area I live in. I live in a very modest, low-cost home(bottom of the line, but I'm very happy). I pay for everything 100%. I have given away tons more than I have ever received. I pay for my childrens' lunches in an Elementary and Middle School. Seems, that even in my very modest lifestyle, we don't apply for any breaks. I actually have never applied because I know we don't. But how do so many live in large, nice homes, and drive higher end vehicles, and get approved? Easy, they spend everything they make, and don't save much. As my older sister said, you are punished in life for saving and doing the right thing. Try saving for your child's college education, then applying for any low-interest college loan program. If you didn't save money, you get a great deal. If you saved for college, you get no financial assistance. Make sense to ANYONE? I guess the answer is for ALL of us to put our money in off-shore accounts. Ha-Ha!

  • poohperson2000 Aug 25, 2008

    You bounce 1 check and you have to go to a draft, pay by cash, or money order. Can't handle that, your kid does not eat. If you can not provide lunch to your child on a daily basis, you need to be reported to child welfare. If you can not take care of your kids the state will find a better cheaper way, then you bouncing checks for your kids lunches while you are eating out evry day.