#LetsMisinterpretDataTogether: Free Lunch Programs

school lunch

Because it’s about time someone took those kids who qualify for free school lunches down a peg!



(From time to time, we like to look at data and wonder “what if this was completely misinterpreted by someone, who would then use their incorrect analysis to create an argument equally as idiotic?” We like to think this would be that argument. In this edition we misinterpret this graph showing the discrepancy in test scores of impoverished children. They separate test scores based on those that quality for free school lunches because it’s a strong indicator of poverty.)


In the United States school children have been the biggest welfare recipients over the last two decades. On average it costs the federal government around $11,000 to send a kid to public school for the year. Even with all that money, we are still behind other nations in math and science proficiency. Instead of figuring out the root cause of the problem, as a nation, we just tend to throw money at it hoping that a solution surfaces. Take those students that are qualified for free school lunches.


The idea of free school lunches was created so students who had a nutritional meal would perform better at school, as this informational video from the General Mills proclaims. Yet as the data below shows, this tends to not be the case.


Free lunch graph


Across the board, math and reading scores were much higher from those that didn’t receive subsidized school lunch compared to those that did. Whether you were outside the city, deep within the city (core city), inner suburbs, or outer suburbs, the results were always the same. Those who didn’t receive school lunches excelled in their math and reading scores.


So I ask you, why are we paying for this again?


If free school lunches are not in fact helping with test scores, then why are we funding it in the first place? Sure many will argue that the reason free lunches exist is to “protect the most vulnerable in our society” or they’ll say “you’re looking at the data all wrong”, but the real truth, free school lunches don’t produce better test scores. The numbers don’t lie!


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