CNN) -- The sagging economy is taking a bite out of federal school-meal subsidies as more students take advantage of free or low-price breakfasts and lunches, nutritionists say in a report released Thursday.
About 425,000 more students are participating in the National School Lunch Program, a group reports.
The School Nutrition Association surveyed more than 130 school nutrition directors from 38 states to produce its report, "Saved by the Lunch Bell: As Economy Sinks, School Nutrition Program Participation Rises."
The nonprofit organization said that about 425,000 more students are participating in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program in 2008-09 than in the previous school year.
That represents an average increase of 2.5 percent from 2007-08, the report says.
These numbers hold true despite a slight decline in the number of students enrolled in public schools this school year, according to the study.