School lunch prices frustrate Ascension parish mom

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - 10:14pm

ASCENSION PARISH, La (FOX44) — Nationally, the cost of some foods is on the rise, and that impacts the price of school lunches. Now, one Ascension parish mom is taking notice. As those prices go up, so do frustrations.

For Jodie McGregory, having three kids enrolled in public school, is eating up her paycheck...literally. "You sign the check and then you go home, and you think about everything," she says. "That's when you're saying, 'Okay, we've got to go back and reanalyze where it is that we're spending our money."

McGregory says she'll pay almost $300 next month to make sure her kids get to eat at school. "It's just that every little bit adds up," she says. "It's not just one little thing. It's a lot of little things."

Right now, in Ascension Parish primary and middle schools, students pay three dollars for breakfast and lunch. High school students pay $3.25 for the same thing.

McGregory's daughter, Kimberly Brown, is a junior at Dutchdown High School. She says it's the extra things on the plate that start to add up.

"You could get the cookie, but they'd be extra. They come in a four-pack, and that's a dollar extra. Water's a dollar extra. Juice is a dollar extra," Brown explains.

Ascension school officials say the cost did go up about 25 cents per meal from last year. They blame the economy, saying food, and the cost to transport it, are higher than last year.

FOX44 compared their prices to other school lunches in the surrounding parishes. According to East Baton Rouge Parish Schools' website, their prices for lunch are exactly the same. In Livingston Parish, lunch for elementary students is $1.50. Lunch for middle and high school students is $1.60.

The price hike means McGreogry and her family have to cut back. "We don't do putt putt golf. We don't go bowling. We don't do a lot of extracurricular sutff," she says.

They aren't the only ones feeling the pinch. "Two to three times a week, I'm buying lunch for a friend of mine because they can't afford they can't afford $25 or $50 dollars in an account," Brown says.

However, the family makes the best of it. They've turned a tight budget into a life lesson. "When I go out or something, my mom doesn't want me to blow it. She wants me to save it and build off of it later," Brown says.

Ascension school officials say their nutrition program is self-funded, and almost every year, they have a deficit. In fact, they've been short more than $500,000 at the end of a school year before. However, they say, they don't want to raise prices too much because it would negatively impact their students.

Officials also say anybody struggling to pay for school lunches can apply for the reduced lunch program. Learn more about their lunch program at http://www.apsb.org/index.cfm?md=pagebuilder&tmp=home&nid=80&pid=28&fmid=0&catid=0&elid=0

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