5 St. John schools begin free breakfast, lunch program
Published 12:08 am Wednesday, August 26, 2015
RESERVE — Students at five St. John the Baptist Parish public schools are enjoying free breakfasts and lunches as part of a program that began this academic year.
East St. John Elementary, Fifth Ward Elementary, Garyville Mt. Airy Magnet, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary and West St. John Elementary are participating in the effort spearheaded by the USDA’s National School Lunch Program.
Fifth Ward Elementary Principal Kendria Spears is excited to have the new program in her school, adding it’s a great way to make sure children receive healthy and nutritious meals.
St. John School District Child Nutrition Consultant Terry Charles said the District is anticipating program success by fostering happy parents and fed students.
The objective, according to Charles, is to get as many students fed without the hassle of asking for meal payment.
In past years parents had to fill out applications for free and reduced meals for their children, but the new program eliminates the application process, opening up free meals to all students who attend targeted schools.
With no household application, Charles said there is less paperwork parents have to worry about.
According to the USDA, this program gives children access to free nutritious meals with no stigma, eliminates time spent in cashier lines and increase time to eat nutritious meals.
Charles said school officials were afraid students were not receiving nutritional meals before the program, but did notice some students were not eating at all. Charles said teachers could now focus on teaching and not worry about reaching a hungry child.
“(Students) don’t have to worry about having funds to pay for a meal when they walk through the door,” Charles said.
According to school officials, some students didn’t like the stigma associated with being labeled a free or reduced child.
Students at the five program schools receive the same meals as the rest of the schools in the district.
“The quality of the meal is the same, the components are the same and the nutritional value is the same,” Charles said.
Before the federally funded program was implemented Aug. 10, Charles said School
District officials review the meals program success at other districts, noting it did not impact funding received by the district.
By Raquel Derganz Baker