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School lunch fees may rise

May 02, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

Washington County students might have to pay 10 cents more for a school lunch this fall.

Gary Dodds, supervisor of food and nutrition services, is proposing the increase to cover the cost of raises for lunch workers.

Currently, elementary students pay $1.30 and secondary students pay $1.55. The proposed hike would be the first in three years.

The cost of a la carte items such as pizza, sandwiches and fruit drinks also is expected to rise modestly, Dodds said.

The food service is unique in the school system because it is self-supporting. In other words, its revenues cover its costs.

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"If the students don't like the food, I'm out of business," Dodds told the Washington County Board of Education.

Dodds has been able to cut some costs by joining 11 other counties in a food-buying cooperative.

Other savings have come through allowing elementary students to decline to take items they had previously thrown away, he said.

Dodds has also expanded the a la carte menu because teenagers have more money to spend, he said.

Washington County's school lunch price is about average for the state, he said.

Most of the costs are for labor. Lunch workers are paid $6 to $10 an hour. Those who work part time do not get benefits, he said.

The school board has not voted on the increase.

Dodds is also proposing a new system for keeping track of secondary students' lunch expenses because students forget to bring their magnetic strip cards to lunch 75 percent of the time, he said.

The new system would require students to memorize a 6-digit code, he said.

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