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Local Students Needing Help Grows

Financial crunch felt by local families with students in schools.

More students are receiving free and reduced-price meals at Santa
Clarita Valley schools than in years past, reflecting a statewide trend
directly related to the current recession and economic crisis. But that doesn’t
mean that children are in any danger of going hungry.

 

Out of the 28,300 students served by the agency, which
provides breakfast and lunch for the Newhall, Saugus,
Sulphur Springs, Castaic and Acton/Agua Dulce districts, nearly 5,000 students
receive free meals and 1,800 pay a reduced rate, a 3 percent increase over
2007, when only 5,000 students had meals provided at a subsidized rate.

 
“We are going to feed them, the district is required to do
that,” said Pavel Matusik, Chief Administrative Officer for the Santa Clarita
Valley School Food Services Agency. “The whole state has financial problems and
they ran out of money in May and June of last year. Some districts with a large
population of economically disadvantaged students took a larger hit. The LAUSD
had a $1 million shortfall, but we only lost about $5,000.”

 

Matusik credited Jane Crawford, the Food Services Director
at the agency, for filing reimbursement requests quickly, so the local agency
received funding for May, unlike several other districts. He said that with the
current budget, the state is expected to run out of money by April of 2009.

 

California
served a record 770.6 million meals in 2007-08, 28 million more meals than the
year before, which is a 4.5 percent increase, compared to the average annual
increase of 1 percent experienced in the past. Currently, 3,118,053 students
– more than half of the students enrolled in public schools – receive free or
reduced-price meals under the program.

 

 “Our responsibility
is to ensure that low-income students have access to nutritious meals because
hungry children do not learn,” said Jack O’Connell, State Superintendent of
Public Instruction. “We cannot prepare students to succeed in the competitive
world they’ll face in the future unless all of their nutritional and
educational needs are met today. Regardless of the many other economic
challenges California is facing,
I strongly urge the Governor and the state Legislature to find revenues to
fully fund nutritious school meals as well as the critical education programs
that are aimed at closing the achievement gap in our schools.”

 

O’Connell is taking steps to prevent this from happening
again by requesting a state budget augmentation of at least $31.1 million to
allow CDE to fully reimburse schools for the May and June claims that remain
unpaid from last year, and to pay for the anticipated higher number of meals
districts will serve this year and next.

Local Students Needing Help Grows

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