Our definition of a school’s economic need level is based on the percentage of students at a given school who qualify for free and reduced fee lunch - a measure that’s commonly used to represent a school’s level of need and eligibility for federal funding.
To be deemed eligible for free lunch, a student's family income must be within 130% of the poverty line (a max of $29,055 for a family of four). For reduced fee lunch, the family income must be within 185% of the poverty level (a max of $41,348 for a family of four).
We receive data about students’ economic need from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). As part of our commitment to transparency, we display this information on the project page. This helps our community (including corporate and foundation partners) choose projects that matter most to them.
Update (August 2019): For schools that provide free lunch to all their students through the Community Eligibility Provision, we approximate the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced-fee lunch by using the school’s Identified Student Percentage (ISP), multiplied by 1.6. This multiplier is used by the federal government to equate a school’s ISP to their likely free and reduced-fee lunch percentage.
Projects on DonorsChoose.org will denote the approximate percentage of students at the school that qualify for free and reduced free lunch, and categorize them in the following way:
- More than a third of students from low-income households: 30-44%
- Half of students from low-income households: 45-50%
- More than half of students from low-income households: 51-75%
- More than three-quarters of students from low-income households: 76-89%
- Nearly all students from low-income households: 90%+
If you believe our data on student household income is incorrect in the DonorsChoose.org database, contact our team and provide us with either an official school report card/government website review of your school's free and reduced lunch percentage, or ask that your principal/director send in an email providing this official percentage.