National School Lunch Program per-capita participation varies by State
In fiscal year 2014 (October to September), 30.5 million students participated in USDA’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP) on an average school day, with 72 percent of participants receiving the meals for free or at a reduced price. On a per-capita basis, this translates into 9.4 NSLP participants per 100 U.S. residents. Per-capita participation in the NSLP ranged from 6.8 participants per 100 residents in Alaska to 13 per 100 residents in Mississippi. Per-capita participation reflects both the percentage of the population that are enrolled in schools offering USDA meals, as well as the proportion of those students who take school lunch. For example, in Utah, where per-capita participation is 11.2 participants per 100 residents, school-aged children in schools offering USDA meals make up 21.5 percent of the population, and 52 percent of those students participate in the NSLP. Alaska’s lower rate reflects a low percentage of residents that are of school age (16 percent) and a lower rate of children participating in the program (42 percent of students). This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.