Free school lunch in higher demand

In 2002, 24.7 percent of county’s children used the program.
Thursday, January 22, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:28 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

More Boone County children are receiving free and reduced-priced lunches.

It is one of the trends reported in the Kids Count report card released Wednesday by Citizens for Missouri’s Children.

The group compiled figures and statistics through 2002 from several state agencies and ranked counties in categories such as infant mortality percentages and the state dropout rate.

Boone County placed eighth out of 115 counties in the percentage of its children receiving free and reduced-price school lunches, with 27.4 percent of children receiving those programs in 2002, an increase of 1.4 percent from 2001. The statewide rate was 37.9 percent.

Cande Iverson, a CMC senior policy analyst, said Boone County’s ranking in the free and reduced-price lunch category showed that, economically, it was in much better shape than the state as a whole.

“Still, almost three out of 10 children are living in families who are vulnerable economically,” Iverson said.

Ruth Ehresman, a spokeswoman for CMC, said the statewide increase in the number of children on the government subsidized lunch program was a disturbing trend.

“I think this shows that although the economy is improving, Missouri is not sharing in its success as a whole,” Ehresman said.

The number of meals given to underprivileged children by Voluntary Action Center, a nonprofit group that helps Columbia families in need, increased from about 6,000 lunches in 2002 to 7,372 in 2003, said executive director Cindy Mustard.

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