More Students in Federal Lunch Program

The number of students taking part this school year in free and reduced school lunch programs has increased by 425,000, the School Nutrition Association says.

A December 2008 report, Saved by the Lunch Bell: As Economy Sinks, School Nutrition Program Participation Rises, attributes the rise in participation to high unemployment rates and families' efforts to save money.

The survey of more than 130 school nutrition directors from 38 states found that 79 percent of districts reported an increase in the number of free lunches served, and nearly 65 percent reported an increase in the number of reduced-price lunches served, compared with last year. At the same time, 48 percent of the districts surveyed reported a decrease in the number of students paying full price for school lunch.

"This year, when hunger is more common, more students are able to eat a balanced, nutritious meal at school," says Katie Wilson, president of the association.

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