House committee passes bill to expand free school meals

Published 4:38 pm Monday, May 22, 2023

By Jenna Bridges | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE — A House committee advanced a bill that would provide free breakfast and lunch for K-12 students who are eligible for reduced-price meals.

Rep. Kyle M. Green Jr., D-Marrero, and Stephanie Loup from the Louisiana Department of Education presented HB 282 to the House Appropriations Committee Monday.

Email newsletter signup

“We have children in certain school districts whose parents meet an income threshold where they qualify for reduced (price) lunch,” Green said. “What I don’t want to have is that unfortunate situation where a child could be denied a decent meal simply because their parents weren’t able to pay.”

Currently, students who qualify for reduced-price meals pay about 70 cents a day. That adds up to about $14 per month for breakfast and lunch.

Loup said the bill would remove the copay for students who eat reduced-price school meals. It would cost the state about $860,000 per year. The money would have to be appropriated each year through the Legislature. If it receives final approvals, Green said, the bill would go into effect starting with the 2023-2024 school year.

“The notion that a child would go to school hungry and we’re expecting that child to learn is impossible,” Green said. He said he would like to see universal free breakfast and lunch in the future in Louisiana, following the lead of many other states.

Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, echoed Green’s desire to provide free meals for all students.

“We find funding for all kinds of things in this state, and to feed children, I think is unquestionable for me,” Marcelle said.