Community Eligibility: Highlights and Important Dates

Students poised for academic success fuel their minds and bodies with nutritious meals every day, not just on test days. The Community Eligibility Provision, created by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and now available nationwide, enables high-poverty schools to offer all of their students a free and nutritious breakfast and lunch each school day. If you haven’t already, now is the time to see if your school district could benefit from this opportunity in the 2015-2016 school year.

More than 14,000 schools enrolling more than 6.5 million students are already seeing the educational and health benefits of community eligibility. Schools that implement community eligibility see an increase in participation in both breakfast and lunch, which means that more children have the energy they need to learn throughout the day, not to mention the increase in revenue from increased participation!

Community eligibility also benefits schools by reducing administrative burdens. School meal applications are not collected, which reduces administrative costs and frees up staff time. While school meal applications are used for other programs like Title I, state departments of education have released guidance for alternatives for calculating the poverty level so that Title I funds can still be distributed to schools. If you have concerns about this, check with your state department of education.

Additionally, increased meal participation allows schools to take advantage of economies of scale resulting in lower cost per meal. Offering meals free to all students also means that schools don’t have to try to collect unpaid fees or cover the cost of meals when families struggle to pay.

AASA is here to help. Our Children’s Programs team can connect you with other districts that have been successful in the implementation of CEP.

Keep these dates in mind:

  • Today: Start a conversation with your business official and food service director about whether or not community eligibility is the right choice for your district. For more information on the provision, check out the Food Research and Action Center’s Community Eligibility Resource Use the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Community Eligibility Database to learn which schools and districts in your state implemented community eligibility during the 2014-15 school year. Use this model presentation to inform others.
  •  May 1, 2015: Each state agency will publish a list of schools and school districts that qualify for community eligibility. Review the list to see which local schools qualify.
  •    August 31, 2015: To implement the provision for school year 2015-2016, make sure your school district submits an application no later than August 31, 2015.