Lunch lines grow across the country, and in D.C.

More students than ever are receiving free and reduced price lunches, The New York Times reports today, a result of their parents falling on hard times. The number of students receiving subsidized lunches nationwide has grown by 17% since last year, as more families find their middle class status slipping due to the recession and tight job market. In D.C.’s public schools, the share of students eligible for free and reduced price lunches is high and has been creeping upward in recent years.  

In the 2010-11 school year, many D.C. students were eligible for subsidized lunches:

•    71% of DCPS students
•    76% of public charter students

Free and reduced price lunch receipt, an indicator often used by researchers as a proxy for poverty, reflects increasing difficulty for children and families across the country. Subsidized school meals—which often include breakfasts and dinners too—are a crucial part of the safety net for children and families. The food stamp program, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has also been responsive to the recession by expanding to the increasing needs of families.

The number of D.C. children eligible for SNAP has also climbed, to 43,000 children in 2010. That’s 43% of the child population in the city! More and more families are relying on nutrition programs like subsidized school lunches and SNAP, underscoring the need for this basic assistance in times of economic stress.