Use of School Lunch Program Soars in Georgia

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Georgia students than ever before are relying on federally subsidized school meals — many for the first time — as families struggle to make ends meet in the sluggish economy.

Nearly 60 percent of Georgia's public school students receive either a free or reduced lunch each day. That's an increase of about 47,000 students over the last five years enrolled in the program, which is aimed at low-income families.

Experts say there are more needy students than that in the schools, but some families don't sign up for the federal program — either because they don't want to ask for help or they don't know about it.

"It is hard because you have to make a decision on whether or not you want to be prideful," said Arlena Edmonds, who signed up for free lunches for her 10th-grader when she lost her $48,000-a-year job in 2010. "Thank God this system is available."

The numbers reflect national figures that show the Great Recession hit middle-class families that were already struggling before the economy tanked. Across the country, more than 20 million students receive federally subsidized lunches each day, compared to 17 million in 2006.

Read more