Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Defining what makes a community "low-income"

Some of the federal nutrition programs that serve children from low-income families – afterschool, summer and childcare food – use an overly restrictive area eligibility test in order to provide reimbursements to serve snacks and meals. That test defines a low-income area as one where more than 50 percent of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

This 50 percent area eligibility test is the most restrictive test these programs have ever had. Prior to 1981, for example, the threshold for an area participating in Summer Food was 33 percent.

It’s harder for rural areas like St. Lawrence County to meet this 50 percent requirement since poverty is less concentrated. If Congress lowered this threshold to 40 percent, millions of low-income children would gain access to summer, after school, and childcare food.  This map shows that virtually every community in St. Lawrence County would then be eligible for these programs.

Key for Map: The red areas on the map are currently eligible. If area eligibility is lowered to 40 percent, the blue areas would become eligible.

Source:  Food Research and Action Center,