Students Eligible for Free/Reduced Price Lunch
What does this measure?
The number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch as a percentage of total K-12 enrollment. Students are eligible for free lunch if their family's income is at or below 130% of the federal poverty threshold and for reduced price lunch if income is 130-185% of that threshold.
Why is this important?
This measure not only shows the proportion of low-income students and families in an area, it is also an indication of the potential challenges facing schools as they work to educate children who have fewer resources.
How is our county doing?
In 2014, 43% of students in the Essex County were eligible for a free or reduced price lunch, above the statewide rate of 38% but lower than the national rate of 52%. Essex County's rate has increased from 25% in 2000, rising a bit faster than the state and at the same rate as the nation.
Of the 46 school districts and charter schools in Essex County, 12 had more than 50% of their students qualify for free or reduced price lunches, and 8 had rates of 80% or more. The New Liberty Charter School of Salem School District, at 93%, followed closely by Lawrence School District and the Lawrence Family Development Charter, each at 92%, had the highest rates in Essex County.
How do we compare to similar counties?
All comparison areas have had substantial increases in their rates since 2000, but still remained lower than Essex County in 2014. Westchester, NY (32%) and Lake, IL (33%) were similar in overall rate, and Middlesex, MA was 17 percentage points less than Essex County, at 26%.
Notes about the data
Data is from the National Center for Education Statistics. With the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the National School Lunch Program now includes a "Community Eligibility" provision allowing districts with at least 40% of students qualifying for free meals to serve free meals to all enrolled students.