The percent of students eligible for free/reduced-priced meals is the percentage of students who were identified as meeting the income criteria for federal free or reduced-priced meal or milk programs. Districts not participating in these programs were required to report students meeting the eligibility criteria.
Meal programs are determined by financial need of the student's family. Eligibility for meal programs is an indicator of socioeconomic status of students. Socioeconomic status plays a strong role in the academic success of students as well as health outcomes. Lower socioeconomic status in children has been linked to lower education and income levels into adulthood. Students of lower socioeconomic status also live under poorer conditions that generate poorer health outcomes. These conditions include poor diet, and poor social and physical environments that lead to behavioral problems, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic stress later on in life1.
1 California Newsreel, Nationality Minority Consortia, Joint Center Health Policy Institute. Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? http://www.unnaturalcauses.org/resources.php?topic_id=1
The data is pulled from the Connecticut Department of Education's Connecticut Education Data and Research (CEDAR) site (http://www.csde.state.ct.us/public/cedar/index.htm).