Schools in the Northern Mariana islands are serving free breakfast and lunch to an increasingly large number of students.
The federal programmes officer at the CNMI Public School System says 65 percent of students aged five to 17 are from families whose income puts them below the poverty threshold.
A decade ago only 39 percent of CNMI families were below the threshold, which Tim Thornburgh says now equates to an annual income of just under 29-thousand US dollars or less for a family of four.
"It is a significant increase, yes, and there has been a significant decrease in the economy here. A decade ago we had an economy that was over two billion dollars, just in gross receipts tax that were paid by businesses. Today it's closer to probably just a little bit above a billion."
Tim Thornburgh says yearly increases in federal funding are helping the programme cater for its growing clientele.