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Free and Reduced Lunch on the Rise

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches in Springfield public schools has gone up.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- According to Feeding America, 1 in 4 children in southwest Missouri face uncertainty finding his or her next meal and may go to bed hungry.

That's why the national school lunch programs exist to provide nutritional and low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

The percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches in Springfield public schools has gone up.

Only children from households that meet federal income guidelines are eligible for free or reduced-price meal services.
 
"Today, based on the population that existed yesterday, our free and reduced population rate was at 80%, which is a 4-5% increase over last year," says Pipkin Middle School principal Tim Zeigler.

Zeigler says hunger is a national problem.

"The economy isn't the way it should be around the country,” says Zeigler. “The economy isn't the way it should be here in Springfield, and Springfield is no different than the rest of the nation."

Only families who qualify can receive free or reduced lunches based strictly on income says Zeigler.

For example, a family of three with an annual income less than $36,131 qualifies for reduced-price meals. On the other hand, a family of three earning less than $25,389 annually qualifies for free meals.

"Kids are coming and going all the time on it,” says Zeigler.

Zeigler says he's seen more applications this year than last year.

"I think that the increase is driven by the difficultly of people just keeping regular paying jobs,” he says.

He also says that hunger affects all parts of Springfield.

"The transfer students are not isolated from this problem,” says Zeigler.

If you would like to help fight hunger in the Ozarks, you can donate to our food pantries, which often provide schools with food.

Besides food, many of these students are lacking basic hygiene products. You can check with your local church, who may donate those items to schools as well.
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