Change in school lunch policy urged after kids denied meals

Local News

No money, no lunch. That’s the policy being enforced at some Hawaii public schools.

It’s an issue KHON2 has covered, and now it’s something lawmakers want changed.

There have been times in the past where a student’s balance on their school lunch account has hit zero and the student’s lunch was taken away from them just as they sat down to eat it.

Thanks to a new bill backed by the Department of Education and local child welfare advocates, there would be a grace period of one week so that students won’t go hungry at school.

Nicole Woo, senior policy analyst for Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice, submitted testimony for the bill.

“It’s just so essential if a family is working poor, and they have three kids, the meals, school breakfast and lunch, that’s a big part of the family’s budget,” she said. “If their application hasn’t been processed yet, sometimes parents just don’t have the money to pay for those meals at full price.”

If a child’s family applies for free or reduced lunch and the paperwork doesn’t get approved in time, the child would not be denied a meal.

Woo says this bill is a common-sense move that needed to be made, and that it helps the cafeteria workers along with the children.

“A lot of cafeteria workers are in their jobs because they love serving kids, and I’m sure that they hate having to deny meals to kids, especially when it’s something like a parent forgetting to fill up the account of the school, or maybe the processing of the application is not happening,” she said.

The Department of Education also supports behind the bill, saying in testimony for the measure, that this will ensure that no student shall be denied a meal for failure to pay.

Both the Senate and House introduced similar measures.

The Senate bill passed out of committee Monday. View the Senate version of the bill here.

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