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19 Calcasieu schools qualify for free breakfast, lunch

Last Modified: Friday, July 11, 2014 1:55 PM

By Kara Carrier / American Press

Students at 19 Calcasieu Parish schools will get to eat breakfast and lunch free — regardless of their income status — when school starts in the fall.

Last month, the Calcasieu Parish School Board approved district participation in the Community Eligibility Provision, a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that subsidizes the cost of breakfast and lunch at schools that meet certain criteria.

The schools that qualify are Barbe, Brentwood, J.D. Clifton, College Oaks, Combre, Fairview, Henry Heights, J.J. Johnson, M.J. Kaufman, J.F. Kennedy, Oak Park, T.H. Watkins, Pearl Watson and Ralph Wilson elementary schools; Jake Drost Special School; Brenda Hunter Headstart; Molo and Oak Park middle schools; and Washington-Marion Magnet High School.

Patricia Hoseman, district food service director, said all students at the 19 schools will eat at no charge and that parents don’t have to fill out any paperwork or applications.

She said schools qualify if they have at least 40 percent or higher “identifiable students,” which means they receive food stamp benefits or qualify for the Head Start program. Students who are homeless or in foster care also qualify.

“I had 29 schools that qualified. However, I selected all the schools that were 90 percent and higher and qualify for 100 percent Title I and E-rate funding,” Hoseman said. “That was the safe route because there has not been a lot of guidance from the Louisiana Department of Education on this yet.”

Hoseman said the district is locked into the program for those schools for four years. The 19 schools were a safe choice, she said, in case their “identifiable student” percentages lowered over the next few years. “This way the district is not going to lose any money,” she said.

Hoseman said parents at the schools will be able to save money because of the program. Normally, the full cost for a child to eat breakfast for the year is $86; lunch for grades K-5 is about $232 and for grades 6-12 about $254.

According to Hoseman, other benefits will include less paperwork for parents and the schools. In addition, the district will not have to account for unpaid charges. For example, participating schools had about $93,000 in charges combined at the end of last school year.

“Our philosophy has been that we feed all children regardless,” Hoseman said. “We do lose money on charging. So, this is a positive thing for everyone as long as the school percentages are pretty high. All these kids will get two well-balanced, healthy meals on school days.”

Hoseman said she expects some backlash from families who have one child at a school that qualifies and another child at a school that doesn’t. She said she hopes more schools can eventually participate.

“Our kids cannot learn if they come to school hungry,” she said. “Now, we can give every student at these schools breakfast and lunch, and most of these schools are on our after-school snack program. All of those are free.”

Posted By: Blayze On: 8/28/2014

Title: Seriously

They need to recheck info I know of many many many times my kids were denied food at Calcasieu Parish schools because they forgot their lunch money and I had to work and was unable to bring it to them. They do not feed every child regardless so honestly yes this is a good thing but I do not see this happening other than a "test" year. Would be wonderful though.

Posted By: gwen On: 7/18/2014

Title: school lunch

I think that's great! With all the fees parents have to pay and supplies for the teacher I think its a great idea..just as long as they have a substantial amount of food on their plates. And for the one that said it shouldn't be free because they throw food away, I'm pretty sure they're kids throw away food at home.

Posted By: K Leggett On: 7/12/2014

Title:

First of all if a family doesn't qualify, they should not receive it. Second of all, I have watched many many students on free lunch just throw it in the trash due to the changes in the menu

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