Metro schools see 3 percent hike in free lunch program users

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 11:25pm

Metro’s population of economically disadvantaged students who qualify for federal and reduced lunches has swelled three percentage points from the previous year to 75 percent of the district’s enrollment.

The bump –– a reflection of the state of the economy and some factors specific to Metro –– is outlined in the Tennessee Department of Education’s 2011 Report Card, which the state released earlier this month. In 2010, 72.1 percent of Metro students qualified for the federal free and reduced lunch program.

Across all Tennessee public schools, 60.3 percent qualify for the lunch program. The state, unlike Metro, has seen little change. One year ago, the state’s percentage of lunch program participants was 60.2 percent.

Paul Changas, the district’s executive director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation, delivered these and other state report card figures to the Metro Nashville Board of Education Tuesday night.

“That 3 percent increase is a little bit more than what you typically see,” Changas said.

“It’s been a steady increase,” he said. “Part of it is, we’re getting more kids from outside of the U.S. — English learners –– and they’re typically economically disadvantaged students. The economy may also have something to do with it as well.”

Metro’s population of English Language Learners during the 2010-2011 school year increased to 11,010 students from 10,487 the year before.

Changas suggested part of the lunch program spike could be in response to middle to upper class students exiting the district.

“That’s probably a small part of it,” he said. “We do compete with a lot of private schools and surrounding counties. If you look at the population that’s left the district before 12th-grade, there’s a high percentage of high socioeconomic status kids.”

16 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 12/14/11 at 7:19

Many who could afford their children's lunch fees are finding out they can
put down any income they wish to qualify and that amount is never checked
or ask to be verified! A much needed program for some, but abused by many!

By: RustyACE on 12/14/11 at 8:06

Dear Joey,

What's wrong with the food stamp program and how I learned to become a Republican.

When I attended first grade at a public school in August of 1976 in Florence, Mississippi, I so proudly carried my little lunch box and got on the Big Yellow School bus and was picked up along with all the other children on their way to our first day at school. We bounced along country roads and this was the greatest adventure of my lifetime.

We made it through the first part of the day and then we went to the cafeteria. Every kid was getting food from the line and a carton of milk, so I got food and a carton of milk. The children ahead of me didn't have to pay, so I didn't think anything of it.

My turn at the register and the lady asks me for money for my carton of milk. I was in first grade; I didn't have any money, so I had to put it back.

That's when I realized how unfair it is that some get a free ride, while others have to pay for their ride. Then as we get older we realize that some have to pay for others to continue their entire lives having a free ride.

Free lunches is one of those ideas that feel good, but make absolutely no since to me. The economically disadvantaged as this article likes to call poor people, are currently receiving food stamps. They are already getting free breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks. They are already receiving free health care, transportation, free housing, et cetera.

I feel that if you are going to give a certain special group of people free food at school, then that benefit needs to be subtracted from the food stamps that they are getting at home. You are already giving the food to the parents, it is their responsibility to send their children to school with food to eat, not the governments.

It is not the states responsibility to double their benefit because of an imaginary line in the income that has been drawn by govermentcrats.

This foundation of personal responsibility is what defines you as a Republican. It is why the liberal agenda of personal destruction is so damaging to our country. Once you understand that at the basis of every liberal idea is what's in it for the democrat, and the basis of every conservative idea, is what's in it for the betterment of the individual, then you will fully understand why this country is at the precipice of destruction at the hands of the Democrats and liberal Republicans (i.e. establishment politicians).

It is the parent's responsibility to take care of their children and feed them. What kind of parent doesn't feed their child? They are being given free food to feed them with.

Madison, TN

By: pswindle on 12/14/11 at 8:25

As the poor get poorer, more and more will be on free lunch. At school is the only food that some kids get all day long.

By: Left-of-Local on 12/14/11 at 8:52

Exactly! And of course, you will always have those (like above) who will beat up on ANYONE who gets help - EVEN CHILDREN.

The greed in this country (and some in this city) is DISGUSTING. Swine, greedy conservative swine.

By: TITAN1 on 12/14/11 at 10:09

I'm a conservative, but I'm not greedy.

By: yucchhii on 12/14/11 at 10:13

yucchhii Ya know it's funny how many believe there is a recession going on because the politicians say there is. But the politicians continue to vote themselves pay raises no matter how others are getting screwed. They say there are no funds to take care of the roads during the winter and ACTUALLY PLOW the roads when there is snow on them no sand or rocksalt to put on the roads to PREVENT BLACK ICE and keep multicar pile ups...OH, REALLY? Hmmm interesting, they have PLENTY $$$$ to put out for a CONVENTION CENTER THAT "NOBODY" WANTS!! And of course, shall I bring up the BASEBALL STADIUM FOR THE NASHVILLE SOUNDS? They have PLENTY $$$ for that too...BUT, "NO $$$ FOR THE ROADS...OR EVEN THE SCHOOLS PROBLEMS!!!" Ok, I understand, WE "NEED" THE CONVENTION CENTER AND WE "NEED" THE BASE4BALL STADIUM. Those are MORE important that lives on the road and a childs school welfare!!!! It's plain and simple those things are MORE important...I see!!!

By: RTungsten on 12/14/11 at 11:37

I'd rather see a new baseball stadium than handing out free lunches. I'm not in school, do not have kids, pay a pantload in property taxes, and I like baseball. So yeah, bring on the stadium....and don't worry about the roads, they will thaw out eventually.

By: NewYorker1 on 12/14/11 at 3:59

I don't believe in handouts, but we can't let innocent children go to school and starve all day either. As we get older, we will come to depend on them to carry this country financially.

I do think that a parent, male and female, should have to take the birth control shot as long as they are receiving government assistance. I think there has to be some control in that area because the more hard working tax payers give, the more people will continue to take. Eventually, we will have more people on government assistance than we have people actually working and contributing to the economy. We can't stay on the path we are on. Some serious changes are needed to reform our welfare system.

By: madridia on 12/14/11 at 4:11

Wow, I am utterly stunned by the comments posted here. We are talking about hungry children.

One in four kids in Middle Tennessee is hungry. They literally do not know where their next meal is coming from. For many of these children, free and reduced lunch is the only reliable meal in their lives. Foods stamps has proven to be an excellent program, and local food banks do help, but many of these organizations are stretched thin with the current high unemployment.

Children who are hungry have been shown to be more likely to fall asleep in class. And malnutrition in childhood has also been shown to stunt cognitive development, which continues to affect life chances into adulthood and beyond.

I can tell that most of the people posting here have never been hungry. And those who are so certain that people are happily leaving off government assistance should change places with the underclass for a while.

By: Rasputin72 on 12/14/11 at 4:17

The country is being engulfed with the underclass who think the more children they have the more "free stuff" they get from the productive Americans via taxation.

By: madridia on 12/14/11 at 4:23

@ govskeptic: What is your evidence of massive abuse? Do you have data to show this? Personally, I would not want my kids to eat the school lunch, even if it were free. Cheap food is seldom nutritious food. It only takes a quick glance at the disparity in health outcomes for the middle and upper classes compared to the poor to see that.

@ RustyACE: You say it is "unfair" that you had to pay for milk when poor children did not. But you neglect how "unfair" it is that these children were born into poverty and you were not (evidenced by your lunch box). You don't mention that it is unfair that poor children are often living in overcrowded or substandard conditions, while you likely had a warm, safe home with a quite place to do homework. You do not seem to think it is "unfair" that they likely had no one to read to them, either because their parents were working multiple jobs or quite possibly are only semi-literate, even though you did, and so started school with certain advantages. You may talk all you want about "personal responsibility," but what did these children do to deserve their poverty? How on earth is it "fair" that they should start life at such a disadvantage and then be held to the standard set buy those who started life with food, shelter, clothing, and parental attention?

By: Rasputin72 on 12/14/11 at 4:36

Madridia.......You make an awfully good case to have underclass adults of child bearing age sterilized.

By: RTungsten on 12/14/11 at 4:43

@madridia: I would actually change spots with the underclass. Hold on, I have been there and worked my way out of it. It's not a class problem, it is a motivation problem.

PS: Kids falling asleep in class shouldn't be your strongest argument. We had a President who fell asleep for 4 years at Yale. He isn't on food stamps.

By: spooky24 on 12/14/11 at 5:02

Madridia I can understand your frustration and your attempt to rationalize the food stamp program in Metro Schools. However, it is difficult to forget things we see with our own eyes. Like watching a parent shell out loads of money to buy lottery tickets because they don't or don't want to understand probability and the impossible nature of a lottery. Once someone has seen this over and over again how can you rationalize it now? How can you justify calling out a person that sees abuse in this program everyday? For that matter how can you be 'stunned' when people are against this program?


By: madridia on 12/14/11 at 7:43

RTungsten, I hear that you believe you worked your way out of poverty, but I have trouble actually believing that you were ever dependent upon free lunch to keep you from hunger. Otherwise, how could you justify taking that from others? Are you prepared to tell me that you were hungry as a child? That your belly hurt to distraction? That you worried about whether there would be food on Saturday and Sunday when you weren't in school?

Also, you cannot base your arguments on your personal experience, because that is necessarily limited. You can point to people who worked hard, had good values and raised themselves out of poverty. That's great. But I can point to people who worked hard, had good values and stayed in poverty. So hard work and motivation cannot be the answer -- otherwise it would actually work, and all the motivated people would succeed. Sadly, they do not. More is necessary.

This is especially true for children -- and this is directed to spooky24. Your comments about lottery tickets are irrelevant. We are talking about children and whether or not they are eating regularly. You ask how I can justify being stunned at people who see the free lunch program as "abuse." I ask you: How can you justify punishing an innocent child for their parents' mistakes? How can you feel cozy and comfortable in your own home, in front of your computer, knowing as you must that you did not "earn" your priviledge any more than that poor hungry child "earned" her poverty? This isn't meritocracy -- it is hypocracy at its highest.

By: madridia on 12/14/11 at 7:44

"That which you do for the least of these, you do for me."