Community Eligibility: Making High-Poverty Schools Hunger Free

Source: Madeleine Levin and Zoë Neuberger, Food Research and Action Center & Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, October 1, 2013

From the summary:
“Community eligibility” is a powerful new tool to ensure that low-income children in high-poverty neighborhoods have access to healthy meals at school. Established in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the option allows schools in high-poverty areas to offer nutritious meals through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to all students at no charge. More than 2,200 high-poverty schools serving nearly 1 million children in seven states — one in ten children across these states — operated under community eligibility during the 2012-2013 school year.

Community eligibility is making a profound difference for students and schools. Findings from Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan, where school districts first implemented the option in the 2011-2012 school year, show ongoing growth in the number of schools choosing community eligibility and a striking increase in the number of students eating school breakfast and lunch….

…This report analyzes the scope and impact of community eligibility in the seven states that implemented it in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. (Four more states are starting in the 2013-2014 school year.) It is meant to serve as a guide for states and school districts as the nationwide rollout of community eligibility approaches. It explains and provides resources related to how community eligibility works, how it helps participating schools and families, how to operate without school meal applications, and how stakeholders can prepare to implement the option when it becomes available in all states for the 2014-2015 school year.