- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - A Kauai County Councilman wants to make sure school children are never denied a meal, regardless of whether their lunch accounts have enough money.

Students shouldn’t be allowed to go without food, Councilman Mel Rapozo said, adding studies clearly show children can’t concentrate properly when hungry.

Rapozo has introduced a resolution urging the state Department of Education, parents and guardians to prevent students from being denied school meals, The Garden Island newspaper (http://bit.ly/1wKyENv) reported.

Rapozo drafted the resolution after a parent of a student at Waimea Canyon Middle School posted a comment online saying students were being told they couldn’t get food at the cafeteria because their lunch accounts lacked sufficient funds.

“I’m more concerned about the kids who are going to school on an empty stomach,” Rapozo said. “For some of these kids, this is their only real meal.”

The issue not only results in children being punished for something that is not their fault, but it leaves them feeling humiliated, Rapozo said.

He asked people to imagine the trauma of a child being told by a cafeteria monitor - in front of his or her friends - that they can’t have lunch.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said in a written response Monday that the department encourages eligible parents to take advantage of the free and reduced-price meal program.

“For families who encounter financial challenges in paying for school meals, we request that they contact the school as soon as possible, before student lunch accounts reach a zero balance,” she wrote in an email.

Kauai Complex Area Superintendent William Arakaki wrote Rapozo in July that Kauai public schools tell parents and guardians when a student’s account has a low balance.

The schools also tell a child’s parent or guardian when the account has a negative balance. School officials inform them payment must be made the following day or the student must bring lunch from home. The schools serve up to five lunches to students with empty accounts before they will deny a child cafeteria food.

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Information from: The Garden Island, http://thegardenisland.com/

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