More kids in need of free school meals

NY Times analysis shows 21 million school kids now get subsidized lunches. / Source: fickr(CHCCS)

More and more school kids are getting free or low-cost lunches now.

The New York Times looked at Department of Agriculture data and found 21 million kids are now getting subsidized lunches.

That's up from 18 million children back in 2006 and 2007. It comes as many families grapple with unemployment and home foreclosures.

These are very large increases and a direct reflection of the hardships American families are facing, said Benjamin Senauer, a University of Minnesota economist, according to The New York Times.

According to the Agriculture Department website, kids in four-member families that make less than 29-thousand dollars a year are eligible for free meals. Families of four who make up to 41-thousand 348 dollars can get a 40 cent discount on meals.

Meanwhile, Medicare is now planning to pay for services and counseling to prevent obesity. The agency says Americans of all ages are challenged by obesity and prevention is crucial. The new benefits will include face-to-face counseling sessions and screenings.More than 30-percent of people on Medicare are obese, and the condition is associated with many chronic diseases.

Are you surprised by the findings? Sound off below and on our Facebook page.

(CNN contributed to this article)