Lunch program sees increases

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The impacts of the recession are being felt in nearly all aspects of life, including school lunch programs.

Both public school systems in Pike County have seen an increase in students receiving free or reduced school lunches.

At Troy City Schools, 1,198 students benefit from the program, said

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Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith. That number is an increase of 77 students since last year, when the district saw 50.22 percent of its students enrolled in the federally subsidized lunch program. This year, 54.8 percent of the district’s overall 2,186 students are participating in the program.

For Pike County Schools, the number hasn’t grown as much. According to Superintendent Mark Bazzell, the system has seen an 84-student increase in participation. Last year the school district had 76 percent of students on free or reduced and this year the number increased to 78 percent of its 2,280 students

Local school increases go hand-in-hand with state numbers.

Statewide the numbers have increased 5.6 percent in the number of public school students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

Alabama school officials report that the number of children receiving free or reduced-price lunches has risen from 389,301 last year to 411,228 this year.

That’s about 56 percent of the state’s public school students. The school lunch program is based on a family’s income, and the rise in the program mirrors Alabama’s unemployment rate, which went from 5.7 percent in October 2008 to 10.9 percent in October 2009. “It shows the economy is putting a squeeze on family budgets,” said Kimble Forrister, state coordinator for Alabama Arise, an organization funded by churches and civic groups to represent Alabama’s poor. Forrister told The Birmingham News that the numbers represent not only the unemployed, but also workers whose hours have been cut.

*The Associated Press contributed to this story.