I saw in an article recently that the number of families on free and reduced lunches in Iowa went from 4.3% to 11.4% in the last ten years. More than double! My first thought was that the requirements were lowered to add more people. So I did a little research and math:
Eligibility for free lunch at school for families of four:
- In July 2000, the maximum annual income guideline was $22,165.
- Ten years later, in July 2010, the maximum annual income guideline was $28,665.
- Using the CPI calculator for that time period, we see that with inflation the 2000 amount should have increased to $28,067 to get the same buying power: no statistical difference.
- Unemployment in Iowa went from 2.6% to 6.1%. This is a major factor lowering household income.
- Single parent families 24.9% to 30.6%. See earlier post: Connection between marriage and poverty
This was a good lesson for me.
Do you think that some of the increase could be that people who are eligible accept the free lunches at a higher rate because there is less sigma for accepting aid? Maybe the same number are eligible to receive aid, but more enroll in the program.
Do you think the increase could be from better marketing of the program?