Percentages By States

“The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012–2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.”

“In the long view, no nation is healthier than its children, or more prosperous than its farmers”

In 1946 the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) was put in place by president Harry S Truman, and while signing the act president Truman said: “Nothing is more important in our national life than the welfare of our children, and proper nourishment comes first in attaining this welfare." Within the first year of the act being in place, over 7 million children participated in it. Over three decades had passed by the time the number rose to over 27 million. By 2012 this program was offered at over 95,000 schools and catered to nearly 31 million school children across the United States. The total cost for this program in the year 2007 was about 8.7 billion dollars.

Although I don’t fully dispute the idea that most students in public schools live below the poverty line, I do question that “the lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty”. In an article published by the New York times, it states: “The number of children eligible for subsidized lunches has probably increased in part because the federal Agriculture Department now allows schools with a majority of low-income students to offer free lunches to all students, regardless of whether they qualify on an individual basis or not.”. This is known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which some states adopted in the 2011–2012 school year. Then in 2014 this program was offered for schools nationwide. Granted not all schools put this into effect until after the 2013 study, the few states who put this into place before could have raised the number significantly enough.

Another reason why the number of students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches is so high, is the criteria. If you are a migrant or a foster child, you can also qualify for this federal program. Students may be determined “categorically eligible” for free meals if their family participates in certain Federal Assistance Programs, such as the SNAP (supplemental nutritional assistance program), or based on their status as a homeless, or runaway child. Children in a federally-funded Head Start Program, or State-funded pre-kindergarten program, are also “categorically eligible” for free meals. Also, “Children can also qualify for free or reduced-price school meals based on household income and family size. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the Federal poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals.”

All that being said, it shows that poverty has always been a problem in schools with the need for free or reduced lunches. It is only now though that it is rising at the fastest rate since first being introduced.


Like what you read? Give Serenity Hull a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.