7 Healthcast: Free lunches
Tu Mookkunt, parent
"They have good lunch and good food for the kids."
This parent volunteers in the cafeteria, but can't afford two-dollars-and-40-cents a day for her own child.
She's in Montgomery County, Maryland - where incomes rank in the nation's top 10.
But even here, they're seeing 400 new applications for free and reduced lunch every month.
Marla Kaplon, Montgomery County public schools
"That's unheard of. It's the highest percentage we've ever had here in Montgomery County."
Why? Because parents are losing jobs, and those few dollars a day for lunch adds up.
Claudia Silva-Ruschel, parent community coordinator
"And so they think, where can we cut things here?"
Roberto Teas, parent
"It's $80 a month. Maybe I can cut something in the home?"
The school nutrition association found almost 8 in 10 school districts got more applications for free lunch this year.
The federal government reimburses them - but doesn't fully cover the cost.
Katie Wilson, school nutrition association
"It's very, very difficult to make ends meet with that reimbursement rate, but you still want to serve a child a hot, nutritious meal."
With so many parents out of work, some groups suggest free lunch for all students.
Washington can't afford it:
Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary
"In times when we're dealing with deficits - trillion dollar deficits, I think we have to be very cautious about how expansive these programs can be."
Congress must reauthorize summer and other school food programs by the end of September.
For now, the stimulus package includes 100 million dollars for new cafeteria equipment.
Preference goes to schools with half or more of their students eligible for free or reduced meals.
Given these tough times, school lunch administrators also want Washington to raise income guidelines, so more families qualify.
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