For the first time in our nation’s history a majority of fourth graders in the U.S. are enrolled in the school lunch program, having crossed the threshold to 52% from the 49% that were enrolled in 2009. The total number of students receiving subsidized lunches now exceeds 21 million. That’s the bad news, which is reported today in a front page of the New York Times @ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/education/surge-in-free-school-lunches-reflects-economic-crisis.html?_r=1&hp about the millions of kids from once solidly middle class families who are getting free lunches for the first time because of changed economic circumstances and lost jobs.
The good news is that programs like school lunch and school breakfast are in place and as entitlements they are funded to absorb such increases in enrollment. They remain one of the few elements of the social safety net that can be relied upon, even as state governments are projected to face increasingly crushing economic burdens and anticipate cutting if not shredding many other efforts to help children and families in need.
This is a continuing affirmation of the very core of our No Kid Hungry strategy. And as we saw from yesterday’s incredible outpouring of support for Share Our Strength following the Dr. Oz Show, the American public gets it, wants to do something about it, and believes that No Kid Hungry is an effective answer worthy of their generosity. And so we enter this holiday period with increased resources and support, but also increased urgency knowing that not only hungry children, but those who care about them are looking to us to make the difference.