News 18 Investigates: Free and reduced school meals

More than 70 percent of Lafayette School Corporation students qualify for free and reduced meals, and the number has been increasing in the last year.

Posted: May 2, 2018 6:02 PM
Updated: May 2, 2018 6:42 PM

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) — More than 70 percent of Lafayette School Corporation students qualify for free and reduced meals, and the number has been increasing in the last year.

News 18 takes a look at the free and reduced meal program and how it's made a positive impact in the classroom.

About 5,500 LSC students rely on free and reduced lunches in order to eat at school. The corporation saw an increase of 450 students enrolled in the program this year, alone.

But teachers from the Greater Lafayette area said it's allowing them to educate more than just students. It's helping them teach
parents what resources are available to make sure their families are fed.

"It's sad to see the students come in hungry because it's like that's all they focus on," said Woodland Elementary School second grade teacher Jenelle Holmes. "They're not able to focus on learning or be excited about learning."

Hunger in the classroom is an unfortunate reality for many teachers in Greater Lafayette.

Miami Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Julie Grubb has seen the impact first hand.

"We would have kids coming in that would say their stomach hurt or just seemed kind of grouchy," she said.

Grubb sometimes asks kids what they had for breakfast.

"Sometimes kids would say, 'Nothing' or they'd say random things like Ramen," Grubb explained.

But like any caring teacher, Grubb would try to help.

"I would scrounge around," Grubb said. "I started bringing snacks for certain kids before we had this program to make sure that if they came in hungry, there was something for them to eat."

Since the beginning of the 2017 school year, every LSC student in grades Kindergarten through sixth have been given free breakfast.

The corporation qualifies due to the number of students enrolled in the free and reduced meal program.

"Every kid doesn't have to walk down to the cafeteria," Grubb said. "Every kid can have breakfast."

Grubb said most of her students would have to go without if it wasn't for these federal programs.

"If we didn't have these free and reduced lunches I feel like most of these kids would not be getting quality nutritious meals every day," she added.

It's a similar story for the Tippecanoe School Corporation. Students are fed breakfast and lunch if they qualify through the free and reduced meal program, but the corporation does not provide free breakfast for all students.

Holmes said part of her job is making sure students aren't missing out on the opportunity.

"It breaks your heart when you see students or parents who don't know how to get the help they need," said Holmes,

She said if she notices a student who is behind on lunch money or not bringing nutritious meals for lunch, it's her job to contact parents about enrolling in the free and reduced meal program.

"I think that there are parents who maybe are afraid or don't know who to talk to," Holmes said. "I would just urge those parents to go ask for help because there are lots of resources in this wonderful community."

Holmes said she's been able to get many students enrolled just by talking to parents.

She said making sure her students have a way to eat is the least she can do.

"Their whole life is on us," she added. "We are here to help them and we're here to help their parents."

For more information on the free and reduced meal program, click here.

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