There is such a thing as a free lunch, just ask a growing number of school districts across the country.
Schools report that many more lunches are going out of the kitchen under the National School Lunch Program as the flailing economy hits families hard and they look for ways to economize.
The program fed more than 30 million children in the 2006-07 school year with federal and state funds. According to the School Nutrition Association, which represents workers who provide the meals, almost 80 percent of schools surveyed report an increase in the number of free lunches served this year.
The organization said an average of 425,000 more students are participating in the programs overall.
But as those numbers rise, schools could feel their budgets stretched as well.