Legal Non-Profit Helps Clear Red Tape Blocking Free School Meals

Oct 30, 2013

More Louisiana schools that serve low-income families can soon offer free meals for all students. It’s because of a policy change initiated by a legal non-profit.

Louisiana Appleseed recruits attorneys to donate their time for policy changes related to education and justice matters.

Spokeswoman Christy Kane says the group became aware of red tape at the Louisiana Department of Education that was blocking access to free meals at schools.

“Our school districts were afraid that if they used the federal meal program they would lose certain at-risk funding, and we of course can’t afford to, and do not want to, do that," says Kane. "So we changed a policy at the state level to allow schools to access the federal meal program without changing their at-risk funding.” 

New Orleans real estate attorney — and former Appleseed employee — Allison Tiller devoted as many as 300 hours to streamlining the policy.

“Just knowing bureaucracy and how politics works we just thought, you know, oh, somebody’s going to oppose or something’s going to happen where it’s not going to be prioritized, it’s just not going to happen," says Tiller. "And so I think with each step, with every meeting, that it was actually ratified — and just seeing that it actually was a reality, I think that’s a great feeling.”

Statewide, 28 school districts have 75 percent or more students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

About 250,000 students qualify.

Starting next year, districts will have less paperwork needed to offer free meals to all students.