Change Indicator

School children with family income below 185% of poverty (formerly free and reduced lunch) in Maine

School children with family income below 185% of poverty (formerly free and reduced lunch)

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Note: Non-consecutive years appear adjacent in the trend line
because one or more years have been deselected.

Why This Indicator Matters

School meals support children in being fully able to focus and learn. Many children rely on having a school meal or meals each day because they experience food insecurity at home. FMI the National School Lunch Program

What the data shows
The percent of Maine children in public schools peaked in 2016 at 47.8%. The rate declined to 34.9% for 2022 and was nearly the same, 35.3% of 2023.  

In terms of county variation, in 2022-2023 school year, four counties had rates above 50%: Somerset, 59%, Piscataquis, 53%, and Oxford and Androscoggin at 51%.  Meanwhile, two counties, Lincoln and York Counties, had economically disadvantaged rates at 24%.
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Definition and Source

PROVIDER

Definition

The number and percent of school children who live in families that fit federal guidelines eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches through the National School Lunch Program. Since March 2020, Maine has universal access to free school provided breakfast and lunch- but the rate of students' families within national income guidelines, 130% and 185% of federal poverty levels, helps to quantify local community needs. Students with family income levels below 185% of poverty levels are noted as "economically disadvantaged" students.
The number and percent of school children who live in families that fit federal guidelines eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches through the National School Lunch Program, a meal entitlement plan primarily funded through federal dollars. The denominator is the enrollments of all schools that participate. Since March 2020, Maine has had a policy of universal access to free school provided breakfast and lunch- but the rate of students' families within national income guidelines helps to quantify local community needs. 

All Maine public elementary and junior high schools are required to participate in the program, while high schools have the option of participating. School children qualify for the National program for free school lunches if their family's income does not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level and reduced lunches if their incomes are between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty level. In 2023, this is $39,000 for a family of 4 for a free lunch and $55,500 for a reduced lunch.

Notes

Data represent school years. Year indicated is the spring term of the school year, such that 2023 data represents 2022-2023 school year. The data for the school year is published in January and is based on who enrolls in school lunch by October of that school year.

Since March 2020, Maine has had a policy of universal access to free school provided breakfast and lunch- but the rate of students' families within national income guidelines helps to quantify local community needs. Because of this universal access, school districts may find accurately determining the rates of students in families at 130% and 185% difficult to obtain, since families do not need to provide this for their families to qualify. 

The national Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a option for schools in low-income areas. CEP allows schools with high poverty rates to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. In CEP schools, while some students may have family incomes above the free lunch rate, the student qualifies because the school qualifies. For CEP schools, the reported rate of eligibility is used. Sometimes this is based on every students family income and other times, schools report 99-100% arbitrarily, regardless of the actual rate since they are not required to collect individual applications in high poverty areas that qualify for CEP status.

Last Updated

May 2023