Free Lunch Participation vs Real Income by State

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that is designed to provide low-cost or free meals to those children whose parents are unable to afford to purchase the meals at full price. The program has been in place since 1946, when it was signed into law by President Harry Truman. Since then, millions of children have benefitted from the program.

I spent some time looking at the numbers and noticed that some of the wealthiest states also have some of the highest participation rates in the National School Lunch Program. Take note of North Dakota in the chart below. They have the highest real income per capita in the nation at $57,367 for 2012, and they also have the highest participation rate in the school lunch program at 86.11%.

To be fair, I used the real personal income figures for 2012 from the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis. These per capita income figures have been adjusted for cost of living differences between states.

The national school lunch program participation rate is simply the number of students in the program divided by the total school enrollment in each state, expressed as a percentage for the 2012-2013 school year.

Interactive Chart of Free Lunch Participation and Real Income per State:



Interactive Scatter Plot of Free Lunch Participation vs Real Income per State:



Data Sources: United States Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Center for Education Statistics, United States Department of Agriculture

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