Child poverty seen in La Crosse School District - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Child poverty seen in La Crosse School District

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According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, more than 16 million children in the United States live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The federal government outlines the federal poverty level as $23,550 a year for a family of four. But according to the Center for Children in Poverty, most families need twice that amount to cover basic expenses.

According to Forbes Magazine, the median household income in the city of La Crosse is $49,174.

Dan Meyer, of the Institute for Research on Poverty at UW-Madison, said more children are considered to be living in poverty than any other demographic.

"The big problem area in poverty right now are kids," he said. "Wisconsin poverty rates of children of color are very, very high as well."

The Reduced and Free School Lunch program is a federal program aimed at providing school meals to children who's families cannot afford regular priced lunches.

In the La Crosse School District, lunch at the elementary level is $2.50, middle school children pay $2.50 and high school kids pay $2.85 per meal.

However, 46% of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunches.

"It's really telling a story of the socioeconomic balance of students in this district," Lyn Halverson, Supervisor for the district's school nutrition programs, said. "So when you have 50% of those students that are needy, I think that's telling a really good photograph of what this community is."

That number is even higher at certain elementary schools. At Northside Elementary, 78% of students qualify for the program. And at Hamilton Elementary, nearly 70% of students qualify.

The district said from its standpoint, there really is no quick fix.

"We really have a lot of families...they could be working full time, but because they're in lower paying jobs, they still qualify for our benefits," she said.

In the 2012-2013 school year, almost seven million free or reduced lunches were distributed across the state.

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