During School Year (SY) 20-21 there was a significant decline in the number of SFAs who reported free and reduced-price lunch eligibility data as part of operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This decline was largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers, which includes Child Nutrition Response #59: Nationwide Waiver to Allow Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Operations through School Year 2020-2021 – EXTENSION. Operation of SFSP/SSO does not require the use of free and reduced-price eligibility as all meals are provided at no cost and are reimbursed at the same rate, thus making the collection of individual income eligibility unnecessary. Most SFAs continued SFSP/SSO operation during SY 20-21. Therefore, the Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report for SY 20-21 contains very limited data reflecting only those SFAs who continued with NSLP operation during SY 20-21. For SY 20-21, the Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report can be requested on a case by case basis, by submitting a custom data request at https://www.azed.gov/data). The requester shall detail their needs for the free and reduced-price lunch eligibility data for SY 20-21.
HNS administers the NSLP, a Federal nutrition program which provides meals during the school day at no cost or a reduced price to students at or below the poverty line. The Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report published by HNS provides the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals at each school participating in the NSLP. This percentage is often referred to as FRL data. The data is based on free and reduced-price lunch eligibility data that is collected from families at the local level and then reported by each SFA—the governing body that is responsible for the administration of one or more schools and has the legal authority to operate the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Program—in the October reimbursement claim. Occasionally, some non-associated sites/schools can contract with SFAs, which means that the school site may be reported under and associated with an SFA that is not their normal District/Charter District of operation. Some schools are associated with an SFA for the school meals programs even though they belong with a different school or charter district for other educational programs.
Annually, HNS calculates the free and reduced-price eligibility percentage of each site operating the NSLP to determine a school’s eligibility to operate additional USDA Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs), such as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) and Afterschool Care Snack Program (ASCSP). Since many Federal grants also use a poverty indicator, such as FRL data, to determine eligibility, HNS has traditionally published this report for others to use.
The eligibility numbers and enrollment figures included in the Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report are from October of the current school year, as reported by the SFA as of October 31.
The data for the report contains the sum of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meal benefits; this information is derived from the site-level NSLP reimbursement claim. USDA has provided guidance on how the number of free and reduced-price eligible students is determined for schools participating in the Special Provision Options of the NSLP. For schools participating in the Community Eligibility Provision, numbers of free or reduced-price eligible students are determined by the individual site Identified Student Percentage (ISP). For schools participating in Provision 2 or 3 of the NSLP, the number of free or reduced-price eligible students is determined by the school’s base year of operation, which may not be the current school year.
The masking of certain data is required by ADE policy. The policy is based on federal laws to protect the privacy of students. The USDA limits the disclosure of student eligibility for free and reduced-price meals or free milk. USDA regulation at 7 CFR 245.8(f)(8) prescribes the penalty for any individual who provides unauthorized disclosure as a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for up to one (1) year, or both. In addition, disclosure of other certain protected data outside of ADE without the student’s written consent violates ADE’s policy formulated under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 20 U.S.C. §1232g. In addition to civil and criminal penalties, violation of FERPA can result in a loss of federal grant money. Ethical and legal considerations resulting from the USDA regulations and the FERPA law require ADE to mask data when released to the public.
The unmasked cells do not contain data for less than 10 students or greater than 98% of enrolled students. USDA policy memorandum SP 99-03 states that that “Providing aggregate [eligibility] information that does not identify individuals continues to be permitted without consent.” Release of data showing 100% of students could potentially identify a student and is not permitted. Masked data are identified with an asterisk (*). Users of the data need to be aware that columns containing masked data will not give accurate aggregate results.
The Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report for SY 20-21 contains very limited data reflecting only those SFAs who continued with NSLP operation during SY 20-21. Therefore, the SY 20-21 Free and Reduced-Price Percentage Report can be requested on a case by case basis by submitting a custom data request at https://www.azed.gov/data.