More than one-third of Minnesota students on free or reduced-price lunch

Number of free or reduced-price lunches rose 3.8 percent over last year.

April 10—In school lunchrooms across the state of Minnesota, more kids are in need of a free meal.

New data from the state Department of Education show the number of students on free or reduced-price lunch rose 3.8 percent over last year. There are now more than 320,000 students on the program, or 38.3 percent of children in Minnesota's public schools. That's below the national rate of 54 percent, and the increases have slowed after steep jumps during the recession.

That growth comes despite signs that the economy is improving as more people are finding jobs and housing sales are rebounding. Given that improvement, analysts don't know exactly why more kids are in line for free lunch.

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