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KWIC Indicator Narrative

Children Receiving Free or Reduced-price School Lunch - Public Schools

Data Provider: NYS Education Department


Related Indicators:

  • Children Receiving Free or Reduced-price Lunch [view data]

Life Area:

Economic Security


Free and reduced-price school lunch participation identifies the number and percentage of public school students in full-day kindergarten (K) through grade 12 participating in one of New York State's primary school nutrition programs. The percent is computed by dividing the number of students with an approved application for either free or reduced-price lunch by the total enrollment for those public school grades for the school year and multiplying by 100. Eligibility is determined by federal guidelines for family income and size.


The percentage of students participating in the School Lunch Program is an indicator of student poverty and its concentration in public schools. Research has documented that children from low-income families are more likely than others to go without necessary food; less likely to be in good preschool programs; more likely to be retained in grade; and more likely to drop out of school. The School Lunch Program provides low-income children with access to nutrition and, in turn, promotes learning readiness and healthy eating habits.


Students in grades K-6 are used as an indicator of student poverty, as opposed to all students in grades K-12, because there is a tendency among students at the junior and senior high school levels not to apply for a free or reduced-price school lunch. This tendency may or may not be equal across schools and districts.


  • In 2016/17, 52.9 percent of New York State's public school students in grades K-12 received free or reduced-price school lunch. 
  • About 72 percent of New York City public school children received free or reduced-price school lunch compared to 41 percent in Rest of State. This disparity between New York City and Rest of State has remained fairly constant.

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