Free, Discount Lunches Surge in Montgomery Co.

Montgomery County Public Schools dished out a record of meals to students during the two-month summer vacation.

A review of district records by the News4 I-Team shows fast-rising demand for free and discount meals in the county, including during the summer months.

District officials attribute the increase to soaring enrollments, including a spike in low-income students who are often unable to find food at home.

Montgomery County Public Schools food services reports, obtained in a records request by the I-Team, show the number of school lunches served during summer months has doubled since 2007.

Nearly a quarter of a million lunches were served between late June and Aug. 22, 2014.

“Our goal is to make sure these students have access to healthy food,”Marla Caplon, the district’s food services director said.  

Public schools are required by the federal government to offer discounted or free meals, which include fruits or vegetables, to students from families with economic need. 

A district spokesman attributes the increasing demand for summer meals to a growing population of needy students, including an influx of international students and unaccompanied immigrant minors.

That increase of lower-income students has also created a need for expanded after-school and community programs operated or overseen by the district.

State and federal subsidies offset the cost of school meals. An I-Team review of public school food programs show local schools receive about $3.00 in government reimbursements for each free meal it serves.

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Summer 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
#  Days 50 50 49 51 50 50 50 50
Sites 79 105 120 108 104 115 115 131
Breakfasts 103,367 122,522 136,682 121,799 112,255 82,138 177,067 167,743
Lunches 134,856 166,389 196,793 163,794 155,822 131,440 253,198 251,273
Suppers             499 778
Total Meals 238,223 288,911 333,475 285,593 268,031 213,678 430,764 419,794
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