Aug 16, 2010 6:01 PM by Veronica White
Elementary school students in Louisiana will no longer go hungry if their parents forgot their lunch money, thanks to House Bill 1141, which became law Sunday.
State Representative Nancy Landry of Lafayette got the idea after she received calls from worried parents and teachers.
"I think we need to hold the parents accountable without punishing the children," says Landry.
In the past when a parent did not pay for their child's school lunch, that sometimes meant the child did not eat.
Prairie Elementary Principal Gwen Lewis says what the children eat-- or do not eat-- ultimately affects how they do their classes.
"I don't think they'd be able to learn very well on an empty stomach; they need the nutrition to think," says Lewis.
The 2 big changes with this law:
1.) If a meal is denied, the school is required to provide a child a sandwich or "substantial and nutritious snack."
2.) Parents will be called after the first and second times without lunch money, and after three times in one school year, the school can involve the Department of Children and Family Services.
"(To) investigate if some neglect is going on in the home. If a parent has failed to pay lunch three times there's a possibility of neglect going on there.," says Landry.
This means the parents will be held responsible.
"We will have to follow the reporting requirements asked of us once all the meals are served, and parents are responsible for still paying those meals that we serve to the students," says Renee Sherville from LPSS's Child Nutrition Services.
So far Lafayette Parish has already had 200 unpaid lunches this year.
These lunches do not include those students who applied for and were approved for the meal benefit program.