The proof is in the cost of the pudding.
Signs suggesting the economy is headed south continue to surface. The latest sign came in the form of an announcement made by Bellevue Schools superintendent Steve Schumm.
"There's more students on free and reduced lunches than I've ever encountered before," he said.
Free and reduced-price lunches are made available to students whose family incomes are below a certain threshold. School officials said the guidelines governing the federal program require that a family of three cannot have an income greater than $22,321 to receive free lunches, and an income greater than $31,765 to receive reduced-price lunches, said Jackie Hess, food service director for Bellevue.
Since November, nearly 50 additional Bellevue students have enrolled in the program.
"At the end of November, 28.9 percent of students were on it," Hess said. "And then, at the end of February, it was up to 31.4 percent."
The largest spike Bellevue Schools saw in the number of students enrolled in the federal program occurred at the elementary level, school officials said. More than two-thirds of the 671 Bellevue students enrolled in the program receive free lunches.
The message to be taken from all of this is clear, Hess said.
"It's our economy -- it's where we are at right now," she said. "It's really hard for a lot of families right now."
Schools all across Northern Ohio report the number of students partaking in the lunch subsidy program continues to increase.
In the last four years, about 259 more students in Norwalk started receiving free or reduced lunches, according to Dorothea Miller, food services director for Norwalk Schools. In February -- out of the school district's 3,060 students -- 1,291 were served the bargain lunches.
"I think it is higher than it was," Miller said. "I just know the need's there."
Perkins and Sandusky school districts have seen the same trend.
"We have seen an increase ... due to people losing their jobs and the economic hard times everyone has experienced," said Perkins food services director Linda Miller.
Of the 2,179 students enrolled in Perkins in February 2005, 288 received free and reduced lunch approval. In contrast, this last February, with almost the same number of students, there were 383 students on the program.
And while it is not unusual for 65 to 67 percent of Sandusky Schools' 3,800 students to receive the specially priced lunches, the numbers are starting to inch upwards, said dining services director Tom Freitas.
"We're at about 70 percent right now," he said. "Obviously we're having a rough time. The economy is down and we're looking at a possible recession if we aren't in one already."