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Controversy Over School Meal Bill Recently Passed in New Jersey

3/11/15 Board of Education Meeting

By: Katherine Massopust

Board President Sam Lebreault

Board President
Sam Lebreault

PERTH AMBOY – Resident Stanley Sierakowski spoke strongly against the bill (A-1796/S-2000) which Gov.Chris Christie recently signed into law. This law prohibits a school district from denying  a student a school meal because payment is in arrears without prior notice to parent. The law requires that the district give a 10 day notice to the parent/guardian, then another warning is issued. If payment is not given by the required time, the student is to be denied a meal until that bill is paid. The bill does not specify the age of the student that the law applies to.

The BOE was sent a notice that this bill was signed into law and must be complied with effective immediately.

The Amboy Guardian asked Board President Sam Lebreault the reason why this law was passed. According to Lebreault, “In Perth Amboy, most of the students qualify for free or reduced lunches. In other higher income districts, where the majority of the students pay the full amount for their lunches, many students take advantage of the situation. These students receive a free lunch by pretending they don’t have any money. This puts a burden on the school district and their cafeterias are not making a profit. Presently, in Perth Amboy, if a student (who does not qualify for a free meal) does not have any money to pay for their meal, they are given a free meal, but it’s not the same meal you would get if you pay (i.e. a simple sandwich) so the student does not go hungry.”

During the Board Meeting, Sierakowski stated, “Even for a 7 year old? This is one of those stupid laws. You’re going to send these kids to class without eating. The only victim here is the child. Until that problem is solved – feed them!”

Board Member Ken Puccio added, “In the beginning of the school year if a parent/guardian puts in for a free or reduced lunch and then qualifies – what then? It’s a shame that we take food out of kid’s mouths. It’s morally not right. We throw the food out at the end of the day. This isn’t the same school as South Brunswick, etc. (i.e. higher income school districts) This is Perth Amboy. A good number of our families are not working and live below the poverty line. Students apply, then qualify and then are they being billed?”

Board President Sam Lebreault stated, “We have to fine tune the system with the Department of Food Services.”

Lebreault stated to the Amboy Guardian that the Board Attorney will examine this law and determine how it should be applied.

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