Even though the state continues to cut funding to local school systems, McDuffie County parents will see a cut in their own expenses next year. Members of the McDuffie County Board of Education approved a 25-cent reduction in meal prices for the 2011-2012 school year. The vote was taken during the regular meeting May 12.
"We changed the way we bid out our food," School Nutrition Director David Moton said. "And it saved us a tremendous amount of money. So, we are able to pass that on to the parents."
The reduced price applies only to full-paying students and adults employed by the district. Of the students that regularly eat lunch in McDuffie County, 29 percent pay full price for their lunches, 10 percent pay a reduced price and 61 percent receive free lunches.
All students eat breakfast free, regardless of their status, through the Universal Breakfast Program.
The school system is reimbursed for students' lunches by the National School Lunch Program based on the student's eligibility. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of poverty level are eligible for free meals; and, those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals, for which they cannot be charged more than 40 cents, according to the Food and Drug Administration Web site.
Because Moton's new bidding process lowered prices, McDuffie County was being reimbursed more for the meals than the cost of the food plus the labor.
Before this year, the McDuffie School System was in a co-op group of 10 counties that purchased food in volume in order to receive lower prices. Moton said this put them "at the mercy of the vendors."
Under a new computer program, Moton was able to separate the 3,000 food items purchased each year and bid them out individually.
Although it saves money, the department and cafeterias must deal with numerous vendors delivering on different days, Moton said.
However, once a bid is accepted, the price is locked in for six months. If the market causes the price to change, the vendor must notify the school system before filling the order.
McDuffie County School Superintendent Jim LeBrun reminded board members that money generated from food service has to stay in the school nutrition program budget. It cannot go into the general fund budget.
The vote passed unanimously with all members present.