Free and Reduced-Price School Meals

Summary: Students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches in public schools

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This database provides the number of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunches in U.S. public school districts and schools.  These lunches are provided as part of the Department of Agriculture's National School Lunch Program (NSLP), in which schools receive cash subsidies and donated commodities in exchange for offering free- or reduced-price lunches to eligible children.  The percentage of children eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches is often considered a surrogate measure for poverty rates.  


Student eligibility is determined by family incomes. Students from families with incomes at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) qualify to receive free lunches; students from families with incomes between 130% and 185% of the FPL qualify for reduced-price lunches.  See Poverty Guidelines for additional information on the FPL. 


Users should exercise caution in calculating the number of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches as a share of total students since the data provider, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), may report lunch and enrollment data that were collected at different times during the school year. In addition, some schools may report free- or reduced-lunch statistics for more than one school. Data are not available for all combinations of categories and districts.


Years reported reflect the second year of a traditional academic year, e.g., 2008 reflects eligible students in the 2007-2008 academic year.

Geographic Coverage: City or Other Local Government

Periodicity: Annually

Series Begins/Ends: 2001 - 2020

Source (APA): RAND State Statistics. (2022, June 1). Free and Reduced-Price School Meals.
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Derived From: National Center for Education Statistics

Updated:  Jun. 01, 2022 Estimated next update: Jun. 01, 2023

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