Livingston — Fewer students are buying meals in Livingston Parish lunchrooms this year after the School Board raised prices, though the school system is still losing money on most food served.
Last week, Child Nutrition Program supervisor Leah Smith presented statistics from the recent fall semester to members of the School Board Budget and Goals Committee. Overall, parish schools served 5 percent fewer breakfasts and lunches compared with fall 2014, she said.
In May, the School Board decided to charge an extra quarter for meals across all grade levels, bringing the cost to $1.25 for breakfast, $2 for elementary lunch and $2.25 for junior high and high school lunch. About half the students in the parish receive free or reduced-priced meals, which were not affected.
Officials said the school system was paying more than $2 million out of the general fund to subsidize the meal program and that the decision was intended to make the food services program more self-sufficient.
Officials said the average cost to make each lunch is $3.58, so even after federal reimbursements, each meal costs the system between 43 cents and $1.21. Breakfasts are a bit more cost-effective. In fact, the schools make money — about 20 cents per meal — on food served to children receiving free and reduced-price breakfasts because the federal reimbursement covers the $1.79 cost of each meal.
Smith said her department has reduced the cost to produce breakfast by 7 cents per meal this year. Ultimately, she recommended the School Board not raise meal prices again this year.
The parish also saved $150,000 parishwide last semester by changing its system for ordering food. In the past, individual managers sent their orders directly to companies, but now they must submit their plans to staff in the central office who review the orders and “knock off” excess, Smith said.
The food services department also has reduced the size of its staff by six since the 2014-15 school year to 253 employees, mostly by eliminating part-time positions.
One unanticipated cost recently was for eggs. Egg prices rose after a supply shortage caused by the avian flu.
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