School children eligible for subsidized school lunch in Maine

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Why This Indicator Matters

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 peaked in 2016 at 47.8%. The rate has declined each year from 2016-2020 and is now at 38.3% for 2021. The pandemic brought a drop in students enrolled and in student participation in school meals. Families with children who were participating in school remotely may not have enrolled in school meals.  in school In terms of county variation, in 2020-2021 school year, five counties had rates above 50%: Somerset, Androscoggin, Piscataquis, Oxford  and Washington.  Meanwhile, three counties had free school lunch rates below 30% including Sagadahoc, Cumberland and York Counties.
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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'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. This is $34,060 for a family of 4 for a free lunch and $48,470 for a reduced lunch.

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 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 2021 data represents 2020-2021 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.

For CEP schools, the reported rate of eligibility is used. Sometimes this is based on every students 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.

Updated June 2021.