Free School Lunch Increase Reflects Bad Economy!

According to a recent New York Times article titled, ” Lines Grow for Free School Meals Thanks to Economy,” by Sam Dillion there is a breathtaking increase in the number of students now enrolling in the free meals program.

Last Year, the Department of Agriculture, the department responsible for administering the meals programs throughout the nation’s public schools, cited a 17 percent increase in students receiving subsidized lunch. In 2010 there were 21 million students enrolled in the program. This increased from 18 million enrolled in the program during the 2006-2007 academic school year.

To qualify for free lunch, a family must be in the 130 percent of poverty level bracket. This equates to a family household income of $29,055 for a family of 4 members. To receive reduced lunch the family income must not surpass $41,348 for a household of 4 members. If the family’s income meets this standard then the reduce rate is 40 cents for the meal daily.

Although, most experts believe that most of the increase enrollment in the meals program is directly related to increase poverty being experienced by families across the nation, the experts also say it is not the only factor to consider.

In 2004 congress passed what is known as the direct certificate requirement. This requires schools districts to essentially match the students receiving food stamps with their enrollment records and automatically enroll these students in the meals program. It is noted that more and more school districts are following the congressional requirement. However, this requirement coupled with the bad economy is proving to put a strain on the meals program’s ability to actually feed all of these hungry mouths.

The National School Lunch Act was authorized in 1946 in response to World War 2. Congress probably never imagined that the program in 1970 would provide for 22 million lunches daily, of which 1/5 were subsidized or at  reduced rate. Congress probably did not foresee that in 2010 the program would provide for 1.3 million lunches daily or that the program would have$10.8 billion budget. Currently the meals program provides 32 million lunches daily of which 21 million are free or reduced lunches.

As the amount of poverty stricken students grow, the pressure on school districts to allocate funds for meals becomes more and more evident. It is noted that poverty stricken students do get their meals from school and often do not have dinner or breakfast at home. However, school districts  are experiencing severe budget cuts and feeding their students is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. Although, this issue does not get that much publicity, it is an issue, and issue warranted to examine and look out for as the economic recover remains sluggish. Is this an issue that politicians should focus more on instead of standardize testing?