School children eligible for subsidized school lunch in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

Schools have to follow federal guideline to offer a nutritious school lunch each day.
School meals support children in being fully able to focus and learn. Many low-income children rely on having a school meal or meals each day because they experience food insecurity at home.

What the data shows
The percent of Maine children in public schools who qualify for school lunch had been increasing between 2003 and 2012. Between 2012 and 2019, the rate has varied little at the state level, with a high of  47.8% in 2016 and a low the very next year at 45.1%. For the latest year, 2019, the overall rate is 46.2% . In terms of county variation, the highest rates of free and reduced lunch are in Somerset County at 71.2% and 69.1% in Piscataquis County compared to a low of 33.2% in Cumberland County and 33.4% in York County.
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Data Provided By

Definitions: .The number and percent of school children eligible to receive a free or subsidized school lunch through the National School Lunch Program.
The number/percent of school children eligible to receive subsidized school lunch through the National School Lunch Program, which is a meal entitlement plan primarily funded through federal dollars. All elementary and junior high schools are required to participate in the program. In Maine, high schools have the option of participating. School children are eligible for free school lunches if their family income does not exceed 130% of the federal poverty level. They are eligible for reduced price school lunches if their family income falls between 130% and 185% of the federal poverty level.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a  option for schools and school districts 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 and reduced lunch rate, the student qualifies because the school qualifies

Data Source: Maine School Nutrition Reports ED534 by County

Footnotes: Data represent school years. Year indicated is the spring term of the school year, such that 2019 data represents 2018-2019 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.


Updated March 2019.