Community Eligibility Adoption Rises for the 2015 – 2016 School Year, Increasing Access to School Meals

Food Access, Nutrition, Policy & Advocacy

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Becca Segal, Jessie Hewins, Mieka Sanderson, Catlin Nchako, Zoë Neuberger, Lexin Cai, and Alison Maurice

In the 2015–2016 school year, its second year of nationwide availability, more than 18,000 high-poverty schools, representing nearly 8.5 million students in nearly 3,000 school districts across the country, have participated in the Community Eligibility Provision. This measure was created by Congress in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act) that allows qualifying schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students without collecting and processing individual school meal applications. This is an increase of about 4,000 schools compared to the prior year, further demonstrating the appeal of the new provision.

Despite these promising numbers, nearly half of all eligible schools still have not yet implemented community eligibility and take-up varies substantially across states. This report is designed to help state and local education stakeholders, school nutrition administrators, policymakers, and state and local anti-hunger advocates identify eligible schools and districts that have not adopted the option but could benefit from it. (Appendix 2 describes resources to support its implementation.) The report assesses community eligibility take-up in each state for the 2015–2016 school year using three measures, and compares the findings for each measure to take-up last year:

  • the share of eligible school districts adopting it
  • the share of eligible schools adopting it
  • the share of the highest-poverty schools adopting it

The report summarizes data gathered by USDA, in collaboration with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC).

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