More than four out of ten public school students in the state receive free or reduced-price lunch every day, and the head of the Indiana Youth Institute says the number should actually be higher.
The Kids Count report says 41-percent of Indiana‘s students in public schools are receiving free or reduced lunch at school. That‘s up from 27-percent in 2004. “We know that not all eligible students enroll,” said Bill Stanczykiewicz (STAN-juh-KEHV-itch), president of the Indiana Youth Institute. “Either they are not aware of the program or – especially as they get older – they feel some sort of embarrassment or stigma attached to this.” The reason for the increase in the number is simple – child poverty has also risen.
“In the year 2000, child poverty in Indiana was about ten-percent. Now, it‘s about 25-percent,” said Stanczykiewicz. The current federal poverty level is an annual income of $23,550 for a family of four. How to reduce child poverty? Grow the economy, and while that is happening very slowly, Stanczykiewicz says it will take a lot of growth to make a dent in the poverty number.
“Qualifications (for free/reduced lunch) are above the poverty line. So, even as our low-income neighbors get jobs, they often get those jobs at the lowest end of the salary scale, and those salaries still allow their children to qualify for these meal programs.” Many of those jobs have been part-time jobs, too.
As Ball State economist Mike Hicks has said, few of the jobs created during the slow economic recovery have been full-time.