- Associated Press - Thursday, September 25, 2014

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) - The Kauai County Council has unanimously passed a resolution urging state officials, parents and guardians to prevent students from going hungry at schools.

The council said current state Department of Education policy must be changed, The Garden Island newspaper (https://bit.ly/1v5gA1k ) reported. The policy allows authorities to take cafeteria lunches away from a student if the student’s lunch-account balance falls $10 to $15 in the red.

Punishing and humiliating a child for something that is ultimately beyond his or her control is unacceptable, the council said Wednesday.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, who sponsored the resolution, said the problem is real. Rapozo said he is hearing about it from more and more Kauai parents every day.

“We got kids that are going up in the (cafeteria) line, getting their plates, sitting down, being tapped on the shoulder and (told), ‘Give me your plate, you don’t have enough money,’ ” he said. “What are we doing?”

The latest incident occurred as recently as Monday, Rapozo said. Throwing away a meal in order to make a point, resulting in a student being left hungry, is “foolish,” he said.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura told Kauai Complex Area Superintendent William Arakaki that the system appears to be broken. “It doesn’t reflect any of the values that we want our school system to reflect,” she said.

Kauai schools tell parents and guardians when a student’s account has a low balance. When an account has a negative balance, officials inform parents and guardians that payment must be made the following day or the student must bring lunch from home.

The department encourages eligible parents to take advantage of the free and reduced-price meal program. Students without free and reduced lunch pay between $2.25 or $2.50 per meal, depending on their grade level. The reduced lunch price is $0.40.

Kauai schools serve nearly 100,000 lunches per year. Fifty percent of the island’s 9,400 students are on the free and reduced-price lunch program.

The negative balance for the entire island was $859.35 in August. Nine of 15 schools reported deficits, Arakaki said.

Arakaki said one of the department’s challenges is ensuring parents take responsibility so that the schools are not left with a deficit at the end of the year.

The department will explore options, Arakaki said, including changing cafeteria lines so that students swipe their identification cards before picking up a lunch, instead of after.


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

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