AN INCREASE IN FREE AND REDUCED PRICE LUNCH PROGRAM BENEFICIARIES REFLECTS THAT NEARLY 17 OUT OF EVERY
100 ORANGE COUNTY CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY.
DESCRIPTION OF INDICATOR
This indicator reports the number and percent of students participating in the National School Free and Reduced Price Lunch program, considered to be an indicator of children living in poverty or of working poor families. Eligibility is based on income of the child’s parent or guardian, which must be below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Research has demonstrated that living in poverty has a wide range of negative effects on the physical and mental health and well-being of children. Poverty is linked with negative conditions such as substandard housing, homelessness, inadequate nutrition, food insecurity, inadequate child care, lack of access to health care, unsafe
neighborhoods and under-resourced schools.
These conditions mean school districts face many challenges serving low-income families, particularly those school districts with more than 65% of students enrolled in the Free and Reduced Price Lunch program. The implications
for children living in poverty include greater risk for poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioral and socioemotional problems, physical health problems and developmental delays.
• In 2014/15, 49.0% (243,432) of students qualified for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program in Orange County, lower than California at 58.6% (3,655,624).
• Between 2005/06 and 2014/15, there was a greater increase (27.6%) among Orange County students qualifying for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program than among students throughout California (14.7%).
• According to the United States Census, 16.9% of Orange County’s children were living in poverty in 2013; an increase from 13.6% in 2010, while remaining lower than California (22.1%) and the United States (21.6%).
• When cost of housing is factored in, poverty among Orange County’s children jumps to 27.8%, surpassing California at 24.9%, with a threshold income needed to maintain a basic standard of living for a family of four at $33,842.2
• Orange County has the fourth highest child poverty rate (27.8%) in California. Monterey/San Benito has the highest rate of 32.4%, followed by Los Angeles (29.9%) and Tulare (29.6%)counties.