More than 840,000 students are getting subsidized meals at school this year, setting a record high, according to new data from the Ohio Department of Education.
That means nearly half of Ohio children in school are getting free or reduced-price lunches. The percentage of students receiving lunch aid has climbed from just under 29% a decade ago to about 45% this school year.
Students can qualify for aid through the federal lunch program based on family income, making the data a good indicator of poverty. Students can become eligible for free meals if their annual household income is less than 130% of the federal poverty level (about $29,0000 for a family of four). Students whose families earn up to 185% of the poverty level (about $41,300), can get reduced-cost lunches.
The number of students taking advantage of those provisions has increased as the recession battered family budgets when people lost jobs or income.