Schools and Child Poverty and Homelessness

  • Increasing poverty among students challenges educators, By Adam Wise, November 6, 2010, Wisconsin Rapids Tribune: “In the past 10 years, the poverty rate has nearly doubled in some local school districts. The financial struggles of thousands of families in Wood and Adams counties is increasing the stress on school officials, as they try to address achievement gaps between impoverished students and the general student population. Locally, district poverty levels — measured by the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches — increased in five local school districts, including a more than 80 percent increase in the Wisconsin Rapids and Nekoosa districts from the 2000-01 school year to 2009-10…”
  • As family homelessness rises in Washtenaw County, educational project works to help kids stay in school, By Kyle Feldscher, November 7, 2010, “For two years, Amina Brewer did her best to act like every other student at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School. The energetic 17-year-old pulled strong grades, had plenty of friends and seemed as carefree as her classmates. But she was hiding a secret from her friends. When the bell rang at the end of the day, the reality of Amina’s life would snap into focus. Her family was homeless…”

School Meal Programs – Washington, DC

D.C. schools dinner program aims to fight childhood hunger, By Bill Turque, October 19, 2010, Washington Post: “D.C. public schools have started serving an early dinner to an estimated 10,000 students, many of whom are now receiving three meals a day from the system as it expand efforts to curb childhood hunger and poor nutrition. Free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch long have been staples in most urban school systems. But the District is going a step further in 99 of its 123 schools and reaching nearly a quarter of its total enrollment. Montgomery and Prince George’s Country also offer a third meal of the day in some schools but not on the scale undertaken in the city. The program, which will cost the school system about $5.7 million this year, comes at a time of heightened concern about childhood poverty in the city. Census data show that the poverty rate among African American children is 43 percent, up from 31 percent in 2007 and significantly higher than national rates…”

US Food and Nutrition Programs

Some Obama allies fear school lunch bill could rob food stamp program, By Robert Pear, September 23, 2010, New York Times: “In her campaign to reduce childhood obesity and improve school nutrition, Michelle Obama has become entangled in a fight with White House allies, including liberal Democrats and advocates for the poor. At issue is how to pay for additional spending on the school lunch program and other child nutrition projects eagerly sought by the White House. A bill that the House is expected to consider within days would come up with some of the money by cutting future food stamp benefits. When the Senate passed the bill in early August, Mrs. Obama said she was thrilled. But anti-hunger groups were not. They deluged House members on Thursday with phone calls and e-mails expressing alarm…”

School Breakfast Program

Breakfast in class: Fight against kids’ hunger starts at school, By Martha T. Moore, September 14, 2010, USA Today: “At 8:28 a.m., the cafeteria ladies of Centennial High School take up positions in the second-floor hallway, just outside closed classroom doors. Each woman is pushing a cart loaded with milk, juice, whole-wheat doughnuts and individual packages of Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms cereal. When science teacher Sue Aronofsky opens the door of her classroom, kids stream into the hallway. ‘You go around, you get your stuff, and you tell the lady thank you,’ she says. Students eat at their desks as announcements drone from the public-address system. After a brief pause to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag and toss empty milk cartons, Aronofsky’s freshmen turn to examining pill bugs under magnifying glasses. Time: 8:45 a.m. The same scene occurs all over the 1,034-student school. Last year, when Centennial served free breakfast in the cafeteria each morning before the start of classes, fewer than 100 students showed up to eat daily. On this morning four days into the new year, with breakfast delivered to classrooms, 864 students have been fed. That many children eating school breakfast is rare. Although the number of hungry children in the U.S. is rising, fewer than half of the kids who could be eating a free or low-cost breakfast at school are getting one…”

Need for Food Assistance in the US

  • Bill slashing food stamp funds worries charities, By Renee C. Lee, August 7, 2010, Houston Chronicle: “Local charities already struggling to provide food for needy families worry that a U.S. Senate bill that cuts $14 billion from the national food stamp program will increase demand for assistance in the Houston area and put more strain on nonprofit groups. Harris County stands to lose an estimated $174.3 million in federal aid, leaving thousands of poor and low-income families who depend on the monthly stipend to go hungry, said JC Dwyer, state policy director for the Texas Food Bank Network. ‘We think this is a huge mistake,’ Dwyer said. ‘The food program is the front line of hunger relief in America. With the cut, the pressure falls to charities that are not equipped to handle it.’ The Senate approved a $26 billion financial aid package Thursday to help state and local governments cover Medicaid payments and avoid teacher layoffs. And it’s doing it by siphoning money from the food stamp program…”
  • Use of food stamps increases, and more people seek aid from food banks, By Matt Campbell, August 8, 2010, Kansas City Star: “Another month, another record number of Americans on food stamps. More than 40.8 million people, or 13 percent of the country, are now receiving monthly help for basic groceries as the unemployment rate remains stuck at 9.5 percent. Newcomers are joining the food stamp rolls all the time. One of them is LeAnn Ward of Kansas City, who made her first visit to a food pantry Friday while waiting to receive her initial monthly allotment of food stamps for herself and her son…”
  • School lunches show poverty bite, By Kelli Gauthier, August 8, 2010, Chattanooga Times Free Press: “In the last five years, Hamilton County managed to woo Volkswagen, help Tennessee snag a $500 million federal grant and invest millions of dollars in at least six brand-new school buildings. The telltale signs of progress and promise of economic prosperity are everywhere. But what often goes unnoticed is that a greater number of families are slipping into poverty. Since 2005, Hamilton County has seen a 20 percent increase in the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches – the measure used by the federal government to determine how much financial assistance a school or school system receives for poor students, according to Tennessee’s education Report Cards…”

Summer Meal Programs for Children – Michigan

No vacation from hunger in Metro area, By Catherine Jun, July 26, 2010, Detroit News: “Access to nutritional food becomes dicey in the summer for many impoverished families, who are forced to go without the free or reduced-cost breakfast and lunches they depend on during the school year. Though a federal program serves free lunches in poorer neighborhoods in the summer, it continues to drawn just a small fraction of these families. And as more households fall into poverty, experts say childhood hunger is growing more acute, and agencies, churches and community centers are taking matters into their own hands to fill the hunger gap. ‘We are hearing more and more about kids suffering,’ said Susan Goodell, president and CEO of Forgotten Harvest. The Oak Park-based food rescue agency this summer is using donations to deliver 1,000 brown bag lunches a day to children in Detroit and Pontiac, including the Spring Lake Village Apartments on Carriage Circle. The effort amounts to a 56 percent increase in food distribution this summer over last, Goodell said…”

Enrollment Encouranged in Low-Cost Health Programs – Indiana

Indiana officials urge health care program enrollment, By Ken Kusmer (AP), July 21, 2010, San Diego Union-Tribune: “State officials and public insurance advocates reached out Wednesday to Indiana’s more than half a million uninsured children and adults to get them enrolled in free and low-cost health care programs. Back-to-school paperwork for many K-12 students will help enroll them in Hoosier Healthwise, Indiana’s health care program combining Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, State School Superintendent Tony Bennett and other officials said at a Statehouse news conference. For example, qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches provides fast-track enrollment into Hoosier Healthwise for needy students, Bennett said…”

High-Poverty Schools and Free Lunch Programs

Federal government eying free lunches for all students in high-poverty areas, rules for vending machines, By Dave Murray, July 8, 2010, Grand Rapids Press: “The federal government could soon be paying for lunch for entire communities of children under a new plan in the U.S. House of Representatives. Christina A. Samuels of Education Week reports that the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act of 2010 would allow schools in high-poverty areas to be covered under a ‘community eligibility’ option that allows free meals to all students without the traditional paperwork to determine eligibility. That would mean free meals for an extra 20 percent of students in Grand Rapids, where eight of 10 students already meet income levels to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. The districts provides students who are eligible for reduced-price lunches to get them at no cost, using money from a surplus in the lunch program’s account. But Samuels said there are more far-reaching effects, including establishing nutritional standards for foods served outside the cafeteria, such as in vending machines…”

Summer Meal Programs for Children

  • Fewer hungry children getting free summer meals, By Mary Clare Jalonick (AP), June 29, 2010, Washington Post: “Hungry children looking for a free meal this summer may not be able to find one. States and cities have cut funding for summer meal programs as need has skyrocketed, according to a new report from an anti-hunger group that tracked the program in 2009. Budget woes that have left many families hungry are also affecting local governments that find themselves without the needed dollars to feed children while they are out of school. ‘Low-income children across the country clearly bore the brunt of budget cuts,’ said Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, which compiled the report released Tuesday. Summer nutrition programs aim to feed children who get most of their nutrition – or sometimes their only real meal of the day – at school. The food research group measures the effectiveness of those summer programs by comparing the number of low-income children receiving meals during the summer with those receiving free and reduced-price school meals during the school year…”
  • Study: Fewer low-income kids getting summer school meals, June 29, 2010, “Many summer food programs have been slashed during the recession leaving low-income children with fewer options, a report by the Food Research and Action Center said Tuesday. The budget cuts reduced participation in summer school food programs across the nation over the past years, the anti-hunger group said. This drop in participation comes at a time when more and more families need these food programs, the Center said…”

School Universal Feeding Program – Philadelphia, PA

Bill would extend Phila. schools’ Universal Feeding program, By Alfred Lubrano, June 11, 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer: “A unique free-lunch program for poor children in Philadelphia schools would continue for five more years under a bill introduced Thursday on Capitol Hill. The city’s Universal Feeding program, which allows more than 110,000 students to eat free lunches without having to fill out applications, was included in the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act. U.S. Reps. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) said Thursday they worked with other members of the Philadelphia congressional delegation and their staffs to get the provision for the Philadelphia program into the House bill. The Senate version does not have a similar provision. Without the Philadelphia provision, thousands of poor city students could face the loss of free lunches, advocates say. Children and their families in poor communities don’t always complete such forms, creating the potential for youngsters to go hungry…”

Eligibility for Free School Lunch Program – Philadelphia, PA

Formula could cost Phila.’s needy students free lunch, By Alfred Lubrano, May 23, 2010, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Thousands of poor Philadelphia students could face the loss of free lunch if a new method of calculating eligibility becomes federal law. Though the change could extend free lunch to students across America, it threatens a program unique to Philadelphia known as Universal Feeding, which allows more than 110,000 students in poor schools to eat free lunches without having to fill out applications. Children and their families in poor communities don’t always complete such forms, creating the potential for kids to go hungry. The suggested change could deny free lunches to as many as 51,182 students – 46 percent of the Philadelphia children who now receive those meals, said Michael Masch, chief business officer for the district…”

Economic Segregation in Public Schools

  • Economic segregation rising in US public schools, By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo, May 27, 2010, Christian Science Monitor: “More than 16,000 public schools struggle in the shadows of concentrated poverty. The portion of schools where at least three-quarters of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals – a proxy for poverty – climbed from 12 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2008. The federal government released a statistical portrait of these schools Thursday as part of its annual Condition of Education report. When it comes to educational opportunities and achievement, the report shows a stark contrast between students in high-poverty and low-poverty schools (those where 25 percent or less are poor)…”
  • Report: Percentage of high-poverty schools has risen; students face persistent challenges, By Christine Armario (AP), May 27, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “The percentage of public schools where more than three quarters of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch – a key indicator of poverty – has increased in the past decade, and children at these schools are less likely to attend college or be taught by teachers with advanced degrees. The findings come from a special report on high poverty schools included in the 2010 Condition of Education study, which reports on a broad range of academic indicators across K-12 and higher education. The U.S. Department of Education report released Thursday found that the percent of high poverty schools rose from 12 to 17 percent between the 1999-2000 and 2007-2008 school years, even before the current recession was fully felt. By comparison, the overall poverty rate for children increased from 17 to 18 percent, leading researchers to believe that that a higher percentage of poor kids were signing up for the meal program. In all, there were 16,122 schools considered high poverty…”

Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program

Struggling families depend more on school lunches, By Heather Hollingsworth (AP), March 27, 2010, Washington Post: “For a couple tight weeks after taking in her sixth-grade stepson, Lisa Lewis fretted about how to pay for his school lunches. Unable to find a full-time job, the 37-year-old works part-time at a Kansas City, Kan., daycare, earning minimum wage. On that money alone, she supports herself, her unemployed husband, her stepson and her 11th-grade son. ‘I sometimes cry myself to sleep wondering how I am going to keep my family fed and things like that,’ Lewis said. ‘I’m making it but barely.’ Her worries were eased when she found out she could get government assistance to pay for the younger boy’s meals. Her older son already is part of the subsidized lunch program. 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…”

School Districts and Poor Children

  • Schools see more minority, poor kids, By Gary Scharrer and Ericka Mellon, January 2, 2010, San Antonio Express-News: “Almost six in 10 Texas public schoolchildren are from low-income families, marking a troubling spike in poverty over the past decade, a state report shows. The increase coincides with a significant jump in the number of Hispanic students, while fewer Anglo students were enrolled last year than 10 years ago, according to the study by the Texas Education Agency…”
  • How school districts help families with less, By Kerry Lester, December 22, 2009, Daily Herald: “Melissa Buenik knows that if students are hungry, it’s much harder for them to learn. So, the Mundelein High School social worker helps teachers identify teens who might not be getting enough to eat at home. ‘We look for observable behavior in class. Agitation, sleepiness, little things like that,’ she said. ‘Once we ask, kids are pretty quick to respond and tell us, ‘Yeah, my family is having financial trouble right now…'”
  • High numbers of Shasta County school kids living in poverty, By Amanda Winters, December 20, 2009, Redding Record Searchlight: “Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a high rate of school-aged children living in poverty in Shasta County and school officials aren’t surprised. ‘There’s not a lot of employment here,’ said Merle Stolz, superintendent of Indian Springs School District, where the Census Bureau estimates 31 percent of children live in poverty. Stolz said the Big Bend school’s participation in the free and reduced-price lunch program is near 100 percent. During the 2008-2009 school year, 11 of the school’s 14 students were enrolled in the program…”
  • Students cope with poverty, By Iricka Berlinger, December 21, 2009, Tallahassee Democrat: “Brittany White is angry. She is angry that she has to live at HOPE Community, a six-month transitional housing program for individuals and families experiencing homelessness, where she shares a tiny, cramped room with her mother and younger sister, Yolanda. She is angry at her mom that they can’t afford new clothes – or anything new for that matter. She is angry because she doesn’t like feeling different from her classmates…”

Census Small Area Poverty Estimates

  • Poverty rate jumps in rural America, By Bill Bishop, November 23, 2009, Daily Yonder: “The difference in poverty rates between rural and urban counties narrowed in the 1990s and through the first few years of this century. From 2003 to 2008, however, poverty rates in rural America jumped. The number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by more than 3.2 million between 2003 and 2008 – and a disproportionate number of those newly poor people live in rural America. Newly released figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that 13.2% of Americans were living in poverty in 2008, the highest rate since 1997. In rural counties, however, that rate had climbed to 16.3%. The increase in the number of poor Americans was heavily weighted in rural communities. Rural counties were home to just over 16% of the nation’s population in 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But 33% of the increase in the number of poor Americans from ’03 to ’08 – more than one million people – was found in rural counties…”
  • Poverty figures rise among O.C. schoolchildren, By Scott Martindale, November 29, 2009, Orange County Register: “More than 12 percent of school-age children in Orange County are living in poverty – the highest level since 2005 – with 3.5 times that number receiving free or subsidized meals daily, according to federal poverty data released this month. The number of impoverished children ages 5 to 17 jumped by 6,188 in a single year, to an estimated 67,062 now in Orange County. Meanwhile, a much larger portion of the county’s students – 43 percent – is receiving free or subsidized meals in school…”
  • Child poverty highest and rising in rural Oregon, By Betsy Hammond, November 29, 2009, The Oregonian: “Rates of childhood poverty vary tremendously around Oregon, with students in rural areas by far the most likely to live in impoverished households, according to new estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Statewide, the lowest rates are in Lake Oswego, Sherwood, Corbett and West Linn-Wilsonville. Six percent or fewer of school-age children in those districts live in households below the poverty level, the bureau reported this month…”
  • Children living in poverty increases in Middle TN, By Janell Ross, November 27, 2009, The Tennessean: “While new U.S. Census Bureau figures show poverty has dropped in most of Middle Tennessee between 2007 and 2008, the area’s children remain disproportionately affected. Poverty for the population overall increased in Davidson and Wilson counties during the period but declined in nearby Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson counties. But children living in almost every part of the region were more likely than other age groups – including senior citizens – to live in poverty…”

Census Poverty Data for School Districts

  • Number of subsidized lunches on the rise, By Meranda Watling, November 19, 2009, Lafayette Journal and Courier: “An increased number of Greater Lafayette students are getting lunches on the government’s dime this semester, thanks in large part to the economy, school officials report. Preliminary numbers for this school year show that in Tippecanoe County, only the West Lafayette school district saw fewer students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches under federal guidelines…”
  • Poverty in CMS hits all-time high: 51 percent, By Ann Doss Helms, November 19, 2009, Charlotte Observer: ” Almost 68,000 students, or 51 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ enrollment, get lunch aid for low-income families this year – an all-time high. The numbers announced Wednesday, while hardly unexpected, are bound to fan talk about middle-class flight and the growing swath of urban schools abandoned by affluent families. The school system nudged past the 50-percent poverty mark in the middle of last school year, as the recession worsened and new applications for aid came in…”
  • Number of poor children rose in Tarrant suburbs, census data show, By Eva-Marie Ayala, November 18, 2009, Fort Worth Star Telegram: ” Fort Worth has seen a drop in the number of school-age children living in poverty, while many suburban school districts have seen significant increases, according to 2008 estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2004 to 2008, the number of such children in Tarrant County school districts grew by 901 to 53,092. The Fort Worth, Lake Worth and Northwest school districts saw decreases, while Kennedale, Grapevine-Colleyville, Crowley and Mansfield had the most significant increases. The shift within the county mirrors housing trends, said Pat Guseman, a demographer who works with Mansfield and other North Texas school districts…”
  • Southern New Jersey school districts see worst of nation’s poverty, By John Froonjian, Diane D’Amico, Trudi Gilfillian, and Edward Van Embden, November 19, 2009, Press of Atlantic City: “Gladys Lauriello didn’t realize her family was poor when she went to school in Wildwood. But now, as Lauriello works as principal in the same building where she attended class, she recognizes the signs of poverty that characterized her youth. She wasn’t surprised to learn that U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday show that 36 percent of school-age children in Wildwood live in poverty. That’s the highest percentage among school districts in New Jersey…”

Report: Food Security in the US

  • USDA: Hunger rises in U.S., By Alfred Lubrano, November 17, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer: “America is hungry and getting hungrier, with 49 million people – 17 million of them children – last year unable to consistently get enough food to eat, according to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These figures represent 14.6 percent of all households, a 3.5-percentage-point jump over 2007, and they are the largest recorded since the agency began measuring hunger in 1995. Of those 49 million, 12 million adults and 5.2 million children reported experiencing the country’s most severe hunger, possibly going days without eating. Among the children, nearly half a million in the developmentally critical years under age 6 were going hungry. That’s three times the number in 2006. The study documented both ‘low food security,’ which describes people unable to consistently get enough to eat, and ‘very low food security,’ in which people reported being hungry various times over the year but were unable to eat because there wasn’t enough money for food. The South reported the highest number of households in both categories, at 15.9 percent, followed by the West at 14.5 percent, the Midwest at 14 percent, and the Northeast at 12.8 percent…”
  • Hungry U.S. households increased about 30% last year, By Tony Pugh, November 16, 2009, Cleveland Plain Dealer: “The number of U.S. households that are struggling to feed their members jumped by 4 million to 17 million last year, as recession-driven job losses and increased poverty and unemployment fueled a surge in hunger, a government survey reported Monday. These ‘food insecure’ households represent about 49 million people and make up 14.6 percent, or more than one in seven, of all U.S. households. That’s the highest rate since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began monitoring the issue in 1995. Additionally, more than one-third of these struggling families — some 6.7 million households, or 17.2 million people last year — had ‘very low food security,’ in which food intake was reduced and eating patterns were disrupted for some family members because of a lack of food…”

Report: Food Security in the US

  • Report: More Americans going hungry, By Amy Goldstein, November 16, 2009, Washington Post: “The number of Americans who lack dependable access to adequate food shot up last year to 49 million, the largest number since the government has been keeping track, according to a federal report released Monday that shows particularly steep increases in food scarcity among families with children. In 2008, the report found, nearly 17 million children — more than one in five across the United States — were living in households in which food at times ran short, up from slightly more than 12 million youngsters the year before. And the number of children who sometimes were outright hungry rose from nearly 700,000 to almost 1.1 million…”
  • Hunger in U.S. at a 14-year high, By Jason DeParle, November 16, 2009, New York Times: “The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls ‘food insecurity’ 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday. The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession’s punishing effect on jobs and wages. About a third of these struggling households had what the researchers called ‘very low food security,’ meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year…”
  • More U.S. households report food shortages, By Scott Kilman, November 16, 2009, Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday that 17 million U.S. households experienced some sort of food shortage in 2008, up 31% from 13 million households in 2007. In 2008, a year marked by rising food costs and recession, the prevalence of ‘food insecurity’ in the U.S. soared to the highest levels in the history of the USDA’s national annual survey, which began in 1995. According to the survey, 14.6% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity at least some time during 2008, up from the 11.1% of U.S. households in 2007 that fell into the USDA’s definition of food insecure…”

Free and Reduced-price Lunch Program – Wisconsin, Florida

  • State faces explosion of schoolkids qualified for subsidized meals, By Jacob Kushner and Kryssy Pease, September 20, 2009, Wisconsin State Journal: “Nearly four in 10 Wisconsin elementary students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch last school year, and the proportion of such students has climbed every year of this decade, according to state Department of Public Instruction data analyzed by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The center found the proportion of Wisconsin elementary students eligible for subsidized lunches hit 37.6 percent last year, compared with 30.3 percent in 2000…”
  • Green Bay district gains most low-income elementary students in state, By Kelly McBride, September 20, 2009, Green Bay Press-Gazette: “The Green Bay School District has gained more low-income elementary school students than any other district in the state since 2000, a new analysis shows. The district’s low-income population grew by 2,398 elementary school students during that time, more than the Milwaukee, Madison or Kenosha school districts, according to a report released today by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that produces regular investigative projects…”
  • Economic downturn reflected at Southwest Florida schools, By Christopher O’Donnell, September 21, 2009, Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “Hit hard by layoffs and paycuts, more Florida families than ever are turning to federal aid to feed their children at school. Even in Southwest Florida, long seen as an area of affluence, the number of children qualifying for the federal government’s free or reduced lunch program has risen sharply this year. For the first time, more than half of Manatee County students — some 22,000 children — meet income guidelines that qualify them for government assistance…”

Free and Reduced-price Lunch Program – Mississippi

Free lunch common in some Miss. schools, By Gary Pettus, September 5, 2009, Clarion-Ledger: “In Holmes County, where the poverty rate is three times higher than the country’s, Patricia Jenkins’ children get a free weekday lunch for at least nine months of the year. In fact, practically every one of the 3,300 other students in the Holmes County School District qualifies for the free midday meal, as well as for free breakfasts. ‘For me, being a single parent who’s out of work, the meal program is a big help,’ said Jenkins, 42, of Goodman, who has three children in school, ‘but it’s also a big help for parents who are working and still can’t afford these lunches.’ Based on family income, about 58 percent of Mississippi’s 491,000-plus public-school children qualified for a free lunch during the 2008-09 school year, compared with 46 percent for private-school students…”