Increasing Number of Students Receiving Free School Lunches
According to a new report in the New York Times, more of our nation’s children are beginning to bear the burden of this recession. The Times reports that the number of students receiving free or subsidized school lunches has jumped 17% since 2007. To make this number more palpable, 17% equates to over three million children, jumping from 18 million students to 21 million students receiving reduced lunches in just four years. Many states are reporting more than half of their 4thgrade school children are eligible for government funded food stipends. In both New Mexico and Mississippi, more than 70% of students now qualify for free school lunches.
Perhaps, even more striking are states that have experienced an explosion of requests for school food assistance in recent years. Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Nevada, and Delaware have all experienced 10%+ need-based growth in these programs since 2007. In fact, more families who three years ago could not have fathomed their middle-class children using government assisted lunch programs, are becoming more and more prevalent.
Census data from 2010 shows a mean household income decrease in nearly each socio-economic and ethnic stratum over the last two years. As inflation and consumer prices have risen in 2011, so has the call for more government aid for subsidized lunches. More middle-income families are becoming strapped as the nation’s fuel costs have risen more than 33% in the last twelve months, while seeing their home value depreciate and their small businesses take a beating from the less than stellar economic growth. More than 15,000 students in Las Vegas have been newly enrolled in the subsidized school lunch program since the implosion of the construction industry in the city. Similar difficulties have been felt in every state in the nation as subsidized school lunch program enrollment as increased in all corners of the country.