More students eating meals at school for free or at reduced cost - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

More students eating their meals at school for free, or at a much cheaper cost

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Eau Claire (WQOW)- Here is a clear sign families in our area are having a tough time making ends meet. More kids are eating their meals at school for free, or at a cheaper cost.

This year, 40 percent of students are enrolled in the Eau Claire school district's free or reduced cost meal program.

"We've had several families come in lately who've said that unfortunately mom or dad has just lost their job, and they're interested in coming in and applying for free or reduced price meals," says Sue Brown, the district's food and nutrition director.

If a family is approved for free and reduced price lunches, they're also approved for free and reduced price breakfast meals.  Nearly every school offers the breakfast option, with the exception of Manz and Robbins elementaries.

"A large part of it is not enough participation and also transportation," continued Brown. "The buses don't get there early enough for us to serve breakfast at those schools, so transportation and school start times are an issue."

Lakeshore Elementary has some of the highest enrollment numbers in the district, 64 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price meals. In some cases, lunch and breakfast, served at school, are the only solid meals these children get.

"Saturday and Sunday can be kind of tough if they may not have stuff to eat at home, for whatever reason," adds Lakeshore's principal Colleen Miner.  "So in addition to having the breakfast and lunch that we have here, and our after school snacks, we're also trying to fulfill that need with the Feed My People weekend kids meals that we have. Knowing that we can't begin to even go to the next step with their learning until their basic needs are met." The weekend meals program, put on by Feed My People food bank. works to send home bags full of easy to make meals, each Friday, with children who are at risk of going hungry over the weekend.

Families can apply for the district's free and reduced meal program at any time during the year. You can find applications at all schools, in the main office and the kitchen, as well as at the district office. 

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