More Public School Students Enrolled In Meal Programs

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell was in San Diego Wednesday to talk about legislation that would provide $19.5 million in additional funding for subsidized school meals, whose funding could run dry by April.

More students have been seeking meals at schools because of the economic downturn, and O'Connell said funding could run out by April.

"During these uncertain economic times, families have taken to tightening their finances, and so we've seen a dramatic spike in the number of children who are receiving subsidized school meals," O'Connell said. "In fact, we are perilously close to running out of money to provide these meals, but we can't let this happen."

O'Connell was at Mission Bay High School in Pacific Beach to tout Assembly Bill 95 by Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. The bill would provide $19.5 million in additional funding for reimbursing school districts for their costs.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that students who need these meals get these meals," O'Connell said. "Hungry children don't learn. Assemblyman Torlakson's legislation is the fix we need right now to continue serving these meals to our low-income students for the remainder of the school year."

California served a record 770.6 million school meals in fiscal 2007-08 - - 28 million more than the year before, according to O'Connell.

Currently, 50.9 percent of students K-12, or 3.1 million children, are enrolled in meal programs, according to O'Connell's office.

The federal government provides between $2.17 and $2.57 for every meal served, and the state contributes about 22 cents.