LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) -

The number of students who need help buying school lunch continues to increase.

In Wisconsin, more than 43% of students get free or reduced lunches. That's up about one percent from last year and the 9th straight year of increases.

La Crosse is three percentage points higher than the state average. While that's up from last year, it's a smaller increase than years past. "What that tells me this year about the numbers is there's a stabilization of economics in the area," said La Crosse School Nutrition Supervisor Joni Ralph.

"We have to take care of those basic needs first before we can achieve high levels of learning and having a good meal to start the day and for lunch is important," said Hamilton/SOTA 1 Principal Steve Michaels.

The district encourages parents who think they qualify to apply for the program. You can do so at the school's office.