Yes, students get free lunch in 2016

A federal program championed by First Lady Michelle Obama that allows all students in a designated school to receive free breakfast and lunch has been extended to a number of schools in Terrebonne Parish, officials confirmed last week.

The Community Eligibility Provision of the Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 allows that an entire community related to a school can be designated for free lunches and breakfasts, without individual applications having to be made by parents.

“We have had fairly serious economic issues here,” said Superintendent of Schools Philip Martin. “How many people do we have worried about losing a job? The economy is worrying people. Last month my food service supervisor, Monica Walther, came to me and suggested that we could be eligible for the community eligibility provision. She researched it.”

As a result of Walther’s work, a determination was made that many – although not all –

Terrebonne schools qualify.

Acadian, Gibson, Honduras, Lisa Park, Oakshire, Upper Little Caillou, Southdown Primary/Upper, Bayou Black, Coteau-Bayou Blue, Grand Caillou, Montegut, Pointe-aux-Chenes, Broadmoor, Dularge and Schriever elementary schools as well as Caldwell, Village East, Elysian Fields, Lacache and Grand Caillou middle schools are included in the program, along with Oaklawn Junior High. Ellender High and the School for Exceptional Children met the mark as well.

The determinations are made based on income data for students in the individual schools.

Martin said that for schools not included in the program, children are eligible as always for free breakfast and lunch through individual application.

“If lunch is $2 per day and you have a family with five children, times five that’s a lot of money,” Martin said. “We are very pleased to be able to improve that situation.”

The law that enables the program includes provisions for healthier school lunches that have been in place for years.

When he signed the act into law, President Barack Obama praised the bipartisan efforts of Congress to get it passed.

“At a very basic level, this act is about doing what’s right for our children,” the President said at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington D.C. “Right now, across the country, too many kids don’t have access to school meals. And often, the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy or as nutritious as it should be. That’s part of the reason why one in three children in America today are either overweight or obese. And we’re seeing this problem in every part of the country in kids from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. As a result, doctors are now starting to see conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type II diabetes in children — these are things that they only used to see in adults. And this bill is about reversing that trend and giving our kids the healthy futures that they deserve.”

When classes in Terrebonne Parish resume Aug. 8, children at qualifying schools will be sent home with notes informing parents that they no longer have to pay for lunch, Martin said. •

President Obama signs free lunch bill