KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- In the midst of a blistering recession, more families are flocking to the federal program that gives students free or reduced-priced lunches.
Schools are watching for who enrolls in the program because it gives teachers insight into life at home, and officials consider it a barometer of poverty.
Federal figures show that during the 2008-2009 school year, about 895,000 additional students received free or reduced-price lunches. That's a nearly 5 percent jump from the previous school year.
Meanwhile, the nonprofit School Nutrition Association surveyed school nutrition directors this fall. Seventy-eight percent of them reported an increased number of students eligible to receive free or reduced price meals for the 2009-2010 school year.
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