More Wisconsin students receiving free and reduced school mealsStatewide, 42 percent of students in Wisconsin public schools receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch.
By: By Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
More kids are getting free and reduced school meals in Wisconsin's public schools. For the eighth year in a row, there was an increase in eligibility for the program. Statewide, 42 percent of students in Wisconsin public schools receive free or reduced breakfast and lunch. Department of Public Instruction spokesman John Johnson says most of those meals are going to kids in families of four making less than 29-thousand dollars a year, "I think this is important for folks to understand: only 6. 2 percent of that 42.5 percent number are students receiving reduced priced lunches So the number of students in families at or below 130 percent of the poverty rate is the bulk of the students receiving aid."
The figures reflect community-wide food insecurity in some areas and anti hunger organizations like Second Harvest try to make sure students don't go home on the weekends or on school break hungry. Kris Tazelaar says Second Harvest operates a "BackPack Program" designed for small town and rural communities in south central Wisconsin,.
We've got backpack programs in Elroy, Evansville, Sun Prairie and Tomah,” Tazelaar said. “Out of those programs we serve at least 850 children per month in those particular school districts. What it does is provide backpacks or bags filled with nutritious food that goes home with the kids on the weekends."
Superior has a similar backpack program called Nutrition on Weekends that serves approximately 88 students a week in the Superior and Solon Springs school districts.
Department of Public Instruction figures show Milwaukee schools have the highest percentage of free and reduced meals: 83 percent. In the last school year, three school districts around the state showed double digit increases. They are Northern Ozaukee, Argyle and White Lake.
In the Maple School District, the number of students eligible for free and reduced lunch rose to 39.6 percent, a 1.1 percent increase, according to DPI statistics. But the number of students eligible for the program dropped in both the Superior and Solon Springs school districts. The Superior School District went from 51.2 percent eligibility in the 2010-11 school year to 50.3 percent in the 2011-12 school year. Free and reduced lunch eligibility in the Solon Springs School District fell eight percent, from 54.2 percent last school year to 46.2 percent this year.