The fight to deal with students being denied school meals

As the Louisiana Regular Legislative Session gets underway, there are a number of House Bills capturing attention.  One in particular focuses on school lunch programs and a student's inability to pay.

HB 284 is authored by State Representative Patricia Haynes Smith of East Baton Rouge.  HB 284 revises procedures relative to a student's inability to pay for school meals and a student's meal debt, applicable to all public elementary and secondary schools, according the abstract.

St. Martin Parish is one of a number of Acadiana school districts that have qualified for the Community Eligibility Provision  where all students are eligible for free lunch.
The districts registered and licensed dietitian Lucretia Hertzock says St. Martin Parish works to avoid taking a tray from a child. "We want to make sure they get as much as they can and to be the best that they can in our district,” explains Hertzock. 

Hertzock says St. Martin Parish Superintendent Dr. Lottie Beebe makes it her mission to foster an environment of nurturing the whole child.

Breaux Bridge Primary School Cafeteria Manager Mable "Rockie" Frank says the free lunch program is a relief.  Frank says cafeteria workers have been known to pay out of their own pocket for a child to eat. "I guess being a mother comes into play.  As a mother your trying to do the best for your kids.  Seeing these babies, you don't want them to go home hungry," adds Frank.

Every school day, nearly 820 meals are prepared for breakfast and lunch at Breaux Bridge primary.  "That way we know if they didn't get nothing at home, they got something here," says Frank.

HB 284, among other efforts, reinforces taking away stigmas identifying a child unable to pay like having to wear a special wristband or be scolded in person. "They need calcium, iron, protein and anti-oxidants.  These are vital nutrients that a child needs in order to grow and thrive," adds Hertzock.

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