With more people in need across the nation as a result of high unemployment, many parents are signing their children up for free and reduced-price school meals. The NYTimes covered this story over the weekend.
According to the article, about 19 million students received school food assistance last year, which represented an increase that was greater than the growth in enrollment. 19 million is a huge number and it’s hard to fathom-to put it into perspective, the whole county of Santa Cruz has about 250,000 people. The school lunch program benefited 76 Santa Cruz Counties’ worth of people-and that’s just the free and reduced lunches-that doesn’t even include the subsidy that is provided for all lunches!
For some kids, the free and reduced-price lunch is the only time they have an opportunity to get fresh fruits and vegetables during the day-their parents may not be able to afford to provide these healthy items at home. So it’s more important than ever that the school lunch program provides healthy food. On March 24, 2010 the U.S. Senate approved the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill. This is an important step to reducing child hunger and malnutrition in our country, but it won’t solve everything-it is up to community members to speak up in favor of healthy meals in the schools. If you are interested in this issue, you can follow Second Harvest’s Fixing School Food blog or Facebook page. Thank you!