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Free lunches becoming more common

More kids are having to participate in school-subsidized lunch programs as more American families struggle to make ends meet.

The Pulse is down today on news that more than half of Missouri’s fourth-graders are eating school-subsidized lunches.

According to Stltoday.com, 51 percent of Missouri fourth-graders need help covering the cost of lunch, and some suburban St. Louis school districts report as many as 55 percent of their students eating income-based “free lunches.” Kids from families of four getting by on less than $41,349 a year qualify for reduced-cost lunches, and those from families of four earning less than $29,056 eat their lunches for free.

The Department of Agriculture, which runs the National School Lunch Program, operates in more than 100,000 public and nonprofit private schools in all 50 states and serves more than 31 million kids lunch each day at lowered prices.

Sadly but not surprisingly, Missouri is not an isolated incident. Just under half of neighboring Illinois’ fourth-graders (49 percent) are in the same boat. And odds are, so too are many other children in the U.S., especially when you consider that the U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010 more than 46 million Americans lived in poverty.

About the author

Joel Patterson is the Associate Producer of Marketplace Money.
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