The number of Cape area children qualified to receive free or reduced school lunch dropped by 5.15% since fiscal 2013 but is still 45% higher than it was in 2008.
There are 6,631 students eligible for lunch subsidies according to data obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Last year 6,993 area kid qualified. In 2008 only 4,437 students received federal lunch assistance.
By the Numbers
Barnstable leads the region with 1,754 kids on lunch assistance number, down from 1,892 last year. 840 more students receive free/reduced lunch than did in 2008. See the chart below.
Dennis-Yarmouth comes in second with 1,284 students, up from 1,155 in 2013. Falmouth has 1,044 students on lunch assistance, up from 997 last year.
At the other end of the scale, only 5.6% of Sturgis Public Charter’s students received lunch assistance. In 2013 6.5% of Sturgis’ students were on free/reduced lunch.
Political cartoonist Joe Quigley weighed on on "eligibility" on right.
The USDA’s income eligibility guidelines for free/reduced school lunch are unambiguous. For a child in a household of three, annual income must be $25,389 or less to qualify for free school lunch. The same three-person household would have to earn $36,131 or less to qualify for reduced lunch.
In comparison, most Massachusetts households of three qualify for “food stamps” if their income is less than $25,392 ($1681/month) according to the SNAP Food Stamp program’s eligibility guidelines.
Families that miss the income cut-off for the federal school lunch programs may receive assistance from local food pantries or community programs like the Masonic Angel Foundation’s Beehive Food Program.
Fortunately, the Cape’s school districts appear to be fairly gentle on school lunch arrearages as reported in last week’s story.
A Slight Recovery?
With a 5% drop in lunch assistance eligibility at the same time the general school population dropped by 1%, we may be observing the slightest of economic recovery in the Cape area. However, it’s also possible that the free/reduced lunch count dropped because low income families have moved to areas with lower housing costs.