Free and Reduced Lunch Expands in Missouri

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COLUMBIA - The number of students participating in free and reduced lunch in Columbia has been steadily climbing over the past several years, Columbia Public Schools said Thursday.

Statistics published this week based on 4th graders across the nation show Missouri has increased its student participation in free and reduced lunch programs by nine percent. 

Although CPS didn't have specific growth numbers, it said the most recent numbers indicate 42 percent of students in Columbia Public Schools do participate in the free and reduced lunch program.  The district did not have figures available to show whether its percentage was increasing or decreasing, but said the number of students in the program seems to be rising.

Director of Nutrition Services for CPS, Laina Fullum, said it doesn't take as much of a toll on the school district because funding comes primarily from the federal government.

However, from the district's perspective, more students on free and reduced lunch means much more than the cost of a meal.

Benton Elementary principal Troy Hogg said in many cases there is a correlation between children on free and reduced lunch and attendance, learning habits and parent involvement.

Benton has always been one of Columbia's higher participation schools in free and reduced lunch programs, but over the past several years, the number of students in the program has reached over 90 percent.

If you want to view the free and reduced lunch application, click here

If you would like to see how Missouri stacks up to other states, click here

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