By Sarah Snyder
ODESSA - If you've been to the grocery store lately, you've felt the sting of rising food prices. Ector County schools are feeling that same pain. They say the cost has gone up so much, they need to raise the prices for lunch next year. On Tuesday night, they plan to present their plan for an increase to the school board.
"We have practiced very good management and controlling our cost," said Terry Gooch, ECISD Nutritional Director.
Terry Gooch has been the School Nutrition Director for Ector County schools for the past 20 years. He says that everything in the food warehouse is costing big bucks.
"The biggest thing is earlier this year, dairy prices went up," Gooch said.
And when Ector County cafeterias serve 4 1/2 million jugs of milk each year, that cost is hurting the county.
"Food costs have risen approximately 4% since last year, for the year 2007," Gooch said.
It's been 5 years since ECISD raised lunch prices last, but soaring food costs leave officials with no choice. On Tuesday night, the school board will discuss a lunch price increase for next school year. If it passes, elementary school lunches will go up by 12% and junior high and high school lunches will go up 17%.
"If they live in the same world we live in," Gooch said, "Their response is going to be, 'you know, I understand. Why didn't they raise meal prices sooner?'"
"One thing that will not be affected is the type of food cafeterias serve," Gooch said. "Meal trays can still be filled with plenty of fruits and veggies. We have very high nutrition standards in the state of Texas - in fact - we're one of the leading states in the nation by the standards we serve the kids."
Reduced lunch prices won't change and Ector County schools plan to continue offering free breakfasts for elementary students.