Demand for free or reduced meals rising even in affluent communities

Posted at: 07/25/2013 5:47 PM | Updated at: 07/25/2013 10:33 PM
By: Dan Bazile

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CLIFTON PARK -- There's no such thing as a free lunch. But many kids will not have to reach for a dime in their pockets for a good meal. It's part of a summer feeding program sponsored by the New York State Board of Education.

"It's an extension of the free and reduced lunch program that happens during the school year," said Andy Gilpin, director of program services at Captain Youth and Family Services.

Low income kids or those with families that have fallen on tough times qualify for the program. In recent years, the numbers have gone up in urban, rural and even wealthy areas. The need has grown in places like Clifton Park, according to Gilpin.

"There are pockets of poverty within Saratoga County and within other rural communities," Gilpin said.

While urban areas account for a large proportion of the kids in need, the numbers have grown in the suburbs. The number of kids that qualified for free or reduced lunch in Saratoga County went from 14 percent in 2005 to 20 percent in 2013. The Shen school district saw a slight increase. One of the most dramatic increases was at the North Colonie school district. The need just about doubled in the span of almost ten years.

"It's an issue certainly we don't confront the issue to the extent that other districts do," said North Colonie Schools Superintendent Joseph Corr. "But it is very real for us in North Colonie."

Part of the blame falls squarely on the dismal economy. But North Colonie Superintendent Joseph Corr said people are also more aware of the programs. Gilpiin said he's helping more kids this year because of new funding from United Way and Hunger Solutions. He's opened up several more feeding locations. However that's still not enough.

"There's definitely more opportunities. More cites that could be established," Gilpin said.



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