Monday, September 21, 2009

4 in 10 Wisconsin students need school lunch assistance

A new report from a Wisconsin non-profit finds that 4 out of 10 Wisconsin students need help with affording school lunches. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism study says that the proportion of children needing free or reduced price lunches has been growing every year this decade.

Reporters Jacob Kushner and Kryssy Pease analyzed data from the Wisconsin public schools for their report. Our snippet of their story comes from the La Crosse Tribune.

The nonprofit center found the proportion of Wisconsin elementary students eligible for subsidized lunches hit 37.6 percent last year, up from 30.3 percent in 2000.

The proportion of low-income students grew at least two-fold in 47 of 411 public school districts during the period, reflecting the toll of the worsening economy and what some experts call a growing threat to education in Wisconsin.

This school year, a household of four earning $28,665 or less would qualify for free lunch. Families earning $40,793 or less qualify for reduced-price lunch.

More than 90 percent of the growth in the low-income elementary student population since 2000 occurred outside of Milwaukee, the center's analysis found.

Green Bay has the state's fifth-largest school district, but its low-income population grew by 2,398 elementary students, representing the largest increase of any school system. Districts in Madison and Kenosha also added more low-income elementary students in the past nine years than Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest school district.

Since 2000, the La Crosse School District has seen participation in the subsidized lunch program rise from 35.5 percent to nearly 43 percent.

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