TYLER, TX (KLTV) - When many students leave school each day, they were worried about one thing: where their next meal will come from. There's a high percentage of students in East Texas who are considered economically disadvantaged. The Texas Education Agency has just released an overview from the 2013 school year.
There are many reasons why thousands of East Texas students have become economically disadvantaged.
"The parents may have lost their employment or other circumstances where the food supply is not as secure as you would want it to be for children," said Region 7 child nutrition coordinator Julie Farris.
For many years, school meal programs have done all they can to help economically disadvantaged students, but each year the population of a school district increases, which means more children who are in need of free or reduced lunch.
"Some of their challenges are irregular schedules at home, parents working late looking for jobs, or both parents working," said Mark Richardson, Bev's Kid Reach coordinator for PATH. "It puts a stress on the kid."
In 2012, 69.7 percent of Tyler Independent School District students were economically disadvantaged. In 2013, it jumped to 70.8 percent.
In Longview, those numbers have decreased by nearly three percent. In 2012, it was 68.5 percent, while in 2013 it was 65.9 percent.
In 2012, 59.2 percent of Kilgore ISD students were economically disadvantaged.
Jacksonville ISD has nearly 81 percent of students who are in need of public assistance. In 2012, the number was 80.2 percent and in 2013 it was 80.3 percent who were economically disadvantaged.
"It's overwhelming sometimes when you look at the numbers," Richardson said.
Julie Farris has worked with children and nutrition for the past 23 years. She says school districts that have more than 80 percent of children economically disadvantaged are considered at risk, and are now becoming educationally disadvantaged.
"Hungry children can't learn, and this is important for our local area, to have children that are ready to learn and are at their fullest capacity to grow," Farris said.
Community-based programs like PATH in Smith County are doing all they can to help these children. With the high percentage of students in need, more than ever they need mentors to guide these students to success.
Here's a link for information on school meal programs:
Here's a link where you can find more information about PATH:
Here's a link for the USDA 2014 income eligibility guidelines: