State reports show more Iowa children are living in poor households that qualify the kids for a free or reduced-price school lunch. In the past school year, over 100-thousand Iowa schoolkids qualified for a free school lunch. About 37-thousand more qualified for a cut-price on their school lunch. Compared to just two years ago, that’s an increase of about 76-hundred more kids qualifying for the government school lunch subsidy. And that increase in the number of kids qualifying for free and reduced-priced lunches comes at the same time total school enrollment in Iowa went down. Looking at the district-by-district data shows where the pockets of poverty are in Iowa. For example, over two-thirds of the students in one extremely small southwest Iowa school district were qualified for the government lunch subsidies. Julia Thorius of the Iowa Department of Education says the government subsidy for school lunches was first established in 1946.Thorius says the nation’s teenagers weren’t passing their induction physicals for service in World War II because of malnutrition, and the program was established “to help protect the nutritional integrity of our nation’s children.”Thorius says that’s when and why nutritional standards were set for all school lunches, regardless of who pays. Thorius says children concentrate and focus better in the classroom if they’ve eaten breakfast and lunch.
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