6,992 Cape Cod children received Federal free or reduced lunch assistance in Fiscal 2013. This represents a 57.5% increase from the 4,437 who received lunch assistance in Fiscal 2008, according to data maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. See the chart below.
D-Y has the most, Sturgis the least
Dennis-Yarmouth had the highest number of children receiving assistance – 37.3% received free lunch and 7.3% received reduced lunch. In FY 2008 those numbers were 24% and 6.6%, respectively.
Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis had the lowest percentage of free lunch recipients, at only 4.3%. Even at Sturgis that percentage is nearly double the 2008 figure of 2.3%.
The biggest increase in number of subsidized lunches was in Barnstable, where 978 more students receive free/reduced lunch than in 2008.
Lunch Assistance Eligibility
According to the USDA income eligibility guidelines for school nutrition programs, a household of three must earn less than $36,131 to qualify for reduced price meals or less than $25,389 to qualify for free meals.
Reduced price meal recipients earn less than 185% of the Federal poverty rate and free meal recipients earn less than 130% of the poverty rate.
Cape Cod’s Hidden Poverty
According to the Cape Cod Commission’s statscapecod.org website, the average family income in the town of Barnstable is $97,081, average family size is 2.79 people and the median income is $75,620.
That said, Barnstable has 1,566 children living in homes that qualify for free meals. Assuming the average three-member household, that would indicate that 1,566 children live in families that earn less than $25,389 – despite the town’s median income of $76,620. There are 12,559 family households in Barnstable according to statscapecod.org.
In Provincetown there are 385 households with an average family size of 2.45 earning an average family income of $84,050 with a median income of $87,228. 50 Provincetown students live in households that qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Despite signs of an improving economy, young families on Cape Cod appear to be missing out on that growth. As housing costs remain high and workforce housing stock is largely insufficient, it is a small wonder that almost 30% of Cape Cod’s children rely on Federal free and reduced school meals to supplement their nutrition.