Numbers growing of kids in need of free, discounted meals at some Walnut Creek schools

An interesting bit of data popped up at a meeting earlier this month between Walnut Creek School District and Walnut Creek City officials. In talking about the need to preserve the counseling program at Walnut Creek elementary and middle schools, despite budget cuts, Superintendent Patty Wool noted that a growing number of students might be in need of help, possibly because their families are facing financial hardship in this down economy.  As evidence of this financial hardship, she noted that a growing number of students in the district are qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunches.  

Since 1946, the National School Lunch Program has provided free and reduced-priced lunches to school children from “economically disadvantaged” families. Public and nonprofit private schools can participate and get subsidies from the US Deaprtment of Agriculture. 

Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals.Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals. The 2009 federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,050. 
The numbers of students in school receiving free or reduced-priced lunches can offer an economic picture of the neighborhood or community that school serves. To Wool, the increasing number of students in her district needing this help shows that a growing number of people in Walnut Creek are hurting from the economy. 

But these sorts of numbers are going up in most places. Between 2005 and 2009, the number of meals served under the National School lunch program increased by 7 percent in California, and by 4 percent in the United States. In 2009, 574,619,337 meals were served to California students; nationally that number was 5,185,316,342.

This first chart (Soccer Mom trying to play with Google graphs) shows schools and districts that experienced the most notable increases in the percentage of students in their populations who qualified for free or reduced-priced meals. The school years covered are 1998-99, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2008-09.

This second graph shows percentage of students in Contra Costa County, the three Walnut Creek school districts, and individual schools who qualified to receive free and reduced priced lunches. The region, district and schools are listed in the order (top to bottom) of those with the highest percentages. This data, from the California Department Education, shows percentages for the school years 1998-99, 2003-04, 2005-06 and 2008-09. The numbers in some schools stayed steady, some went down, but a fair number increased a little or a lot. 

Special note: In my playing with charts, I left off the percentages for Walnut Acres Elementary, which consistently had the lowest percentage of students in this program. No disrespect to Walnut Acres. Those numbers are: 1998-99, 1; 2003-04, 1; 2005-06, 2; 2008-09, 2. 

7 thoughts on “Numbers growing of kids in need of free, discounted meals at some Walnut Creek schools

  1. Thanks Soccer Mom,

    I love graphs, charts and spreadsheets And you did them in color!

    Seriously, as a former teacher in a low-income area, I continue to support low-cost meals for children that need them. It is very important that these meals include fresh and healthy ingredients. The trend toward that need has been very positive of late.


  2. School's should not be in the business of feeding children. School's could save a bunch of money just focusing on educating kids.


  3. 5:37 pm,

    Your opinions on education are not highly honored if you make significant grammatical mistakes. The plural of a word does not require an apostrophe.

    Thus, the plural of school is schools. This is the kind of grammatical rule that most students learn early in elementary school.

    A sentence that might include the possessive “school's”, however, would read something like this:

    “The school's success is due, in part, to the free and reduced-price meals offered to students from low-income families. Well-fed children are found to succeed in academics compared to those struggling with hunger.”

    Also, 5:37, note that the low-cost meals of which you disapprove are not financed by local schools but by the National School Lunch Program that Soccer Mom tells us has been around since 1946.

    P.S. – I know that I make a lot of my own errors but I try to learn something new every day.


  4. “As evidence of this financial hardship, she noted that a growing number of students in the district are qualifying for free or reduced-priced lunches.”

    Or, this could simply be evidence that more illegal aliens are moving into the area and taking advantage of our generous benefits. In MDUSD, there is almost a perfect correlation between the percentage of students getting reduced and/or free lunches and the percentage of Hispanic students attending the school.

    One way to solve this problem is to deport illegal aliens.


  5. Anonymous at 6:52…Another idea, would be to deport you. I will gladly care for the indigent children without your help. Keep your money, but please excuse yourself so that those of us with a sense of moral responsibility can do our job.


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