METHODOLOGY

States of Hunger publishes program participation data to examine how well states are reaching children through the following federal nutrition programs: school breakfast, school lunch, afterschool meal programs, summer meal programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Below is more detail on the program participation measures used.

Program

Metric

Indicator

Source (1)

School Breakfast

Participation rate among free and reduced-price meal (FR) eligible (2)

# of children participating in FRP breakfast through the School Breakfast Program (SBP), divided by # of FR eligible children

Calculation using Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2018 data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS)

School Lunch

Participation rate among FR eligible (3)

# of children participating in FRP lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), divided by # of FR eligible children

Calculation using FFY 2018 data from the USDA FNS 

Afterschool

Ratio of meals served to FR eligible meals (4)

# of Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) At-Risk afterschool suppers and snacks plus NSLP FR afterschool snacks (minus July NSLP FR snacks), divided by FR eligible meals assuming one per school day

Calculation using FFY 2018 data from the USDA FNS 

Summer

Ratio of meals served to FR eligible meals (5)

# of Summer Food Service Program meals and snacks plus July SBP and NSLP FR meals and snacks, divided by FR eligible meals assuming two per summer day 

Calculation using FFY 2018 data from the USDA FNS 

WIC

Coverage rate among eligible infants

# of infants less than 1 years old participating in WIC, divided by # of estimated eligible infants (6)

Calendar Year (CY) 2016 data from the USDA FNS report (6)

Coverage rate among eligible children 1-4

# of children age 1 through 4 years old participating in WIC, divided by # of estimated eligible children (6)



  1. Source reflects the most recent data available.


  2. School Breakfast= School Breakfast Calculated Average Daily FR Participation / October FR Eligible Children


  3. School Lunch= School Lunch Calculated Average Daily FR Participation / October FR Eligible Children


  4. Afterschool = (CACFP At-Risk supper + snacks + NSLP FR snacks- July NSLP FR Snacks) / (October FR Eligible Children * 1 meal * 167 school days)

    Number of afterschool meals served is used as the numerator (subtracting out July FR snacks, which count towards summer meals), given that the data reported makes it difficult to accurately cite the number of participating children. NSLP FR Snacks includes area-eligible snacks as well as FR snacks served at locations that are not area-eligible. Number of FR eligible meals (specifically, the number of meals that could be made available to all FR eligible students in a school year, assuming one meal or snack on school days) is the denominator since this reflects a potential need for afterschool meals. To estimate the school year days, we took the 0.927 absentee factor used by USDA FNS for calculating days of meal operation and multiplied it with 180 school days (the number of school days for a majority of states), which equaled 167 school days. 167 school days approximates usual school attendance per school year in most parts of the country. However, actual days vary widely (for example, some schools operate on four-day school weeks), and programs are permitted to serve meals and snacks through CACFP At-Risk Afterschool on non-school days during the school year. In states like Colorado and Oklahoma that have many schools operating on four-day school weeks, the number of programs operating on non-school days likely does not outweigh the number of programs operating only during the shorter school week. 

    For FY15 Massachusetts and Nevada suppers, we used data gathered directly from the state agency due to a discrepancy in the USDA data.


  5. Summer = (May through August SFSP meals and snacks+ July SBP and NSLP FR meals and snacks) / (October FR Eligible Children * 2 meals * 40 summer days)

    Number of summer meals served is used as the numerator, given that the data reported makes it difficult to accurately cite the number of participating children.Number of FR eligible meals are the denominator (specifically, the number of meals that could be made available to all FR eligible students during a time frame that is similar to summer, assuming two meals per day). The denominator was chosen because two meals can be provided daily within summer meals programs and using the number that could be served in a similar time period reflects the potential need for summer meals. The 40 day summer period was based on the assumption of an 8-week summer multiplied by 5 days a week.


  6. WIC = Average monthly number participants from FNS administrative data divided by the average monthly number of individuals estimated eligible.

    This is called the coverage rate and is taken directly from: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support. National- and State-Level Estimates of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Eligibles and Program Reach in 2016, by Carole Trippe, Chrystine Tadler, Paul Johnson, Linda Giannarelli, and David Betson. Project Officer: Grant Lovellette. Alexandria, VA: February 2019. https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/national-and-state-level-estimates-wic-eligibility-and-wic-program-reach-2016

    Note that there was a large change in WIC coverage rates for infants comparing 2016 to 2015 due to a data anomaly. This is explained further on page 27 of the above linked 2016 report.


SNAP has not been included in this report because it is difficult to compare participation rates among households with children across states, because some states have opted to expand their eligibility criteria beyond the regular federal program rules through the use of Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE). BBCE states that are more generous in their eligibility rules have a larger pool of eligible children, including those with higher incomes who are less likely to participate in the program and are more likely to qualify for a lower benefit. This often leads to lower participation rates than states that only use the federal rules, even though they might actually be reaching more children in need.

It is not possible to compare states using the federal program eligibility rules instead of the state eligibility rules, because most families with children who are eligible for SNAP under the federal rules are participating in the program (the national participation rate is 100%), so the comparison is not meaningful.