Local News

Healthy School Lunches May Come at Steep Price

Posted February 23, 2007 1:52 p.m. EST

— Making kids healthier has always been a hot topic in North Carolina. However, critics argue that without help from the state government, parents may be forced to pay more for their child's lunch than ever before.

Every day, 73 percent of Johnston County middle school students leave their lunch boxes at home and choose the schools' nutritionally sound hot lunch. The teens spend $1.80 for the meal - a 15-cent increase over last year.

Every school in Johnston County offers five entrees, three with a star labeling them especially healthy, but that choice comes with a cost. Officials said fresh fruit and fresh produce have spiked in prices due to weather and rising transportation costs.

A new law said all North Carolina schools must participate in a detailed, healthy-eating plan by Fall 2008, causing concern for those in food service. A pilot program resulted in a financial failure for seven counties statewide.

"Prices are going to have to increase or the state is going to have to step up and put some funding in our child's nutritional services programs," said Beth Taylor, of Johnston County Nutrition Services.

To help fund the changes, the state school board is requesting $15 million from the Legislature to supplement the new requirements. Currently, North Carolina does not allocate any funding for the school lunch program.

The state's Child Nutrition Department said it is hoping lawmakers look at Georgia, where that state's Legislature spends 39 cents for every student.