We’ve entered the period for school districts in high-poverty areas to decide whether to implement community eligibility — which allows qualifying schools to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge — for the 2015-2016 school year. More than 14,000 high-poverty schools are using community eligibility this year to become hunger free by giving their 6.6 million students access to nutritious school meals. Yet about half of the eligible schools haven’t adopted community eligibility, which first became available nationwide this year. Now they have another chance.
Under federal law, school districts have already identified the share of their students who, as of April 1, were eligible for free school meals without applying because they receive assistance from another program, like SNAP (formerly food stamps). This figure, known as the “identified student percentage,” determines whether a school qualifies for community eligibility.
Key deadlines coming up include:
April 15: Districts must report the identified student percentages for schools that are eligible (or nearly eligible) for community eligibility to the state agency that runs the school meal programs.
May 1: Each state must publish a list of schools eligible for community eligibility. This list is often posted on the state’s Department of Education website. As we did last year, we’ll publish the link to each list as it becomes available.
August 31: Districts must notify their state agency that they wish to adopt community eligibility for the 2015-2016 school year and demonstrate eligibility following state procedures.
Stakeholders have an opportunity in the coming months to make sure that eligible school districts have the information needed to assess community eligibility. Resources like the model presentation and implementation guide that CBPP prepared with the Food Research and Action Center can help frame conversations with school boards, superintendents, wellness committees, and other stakeholders.
Now is the time to use this powerful and proven model to bring free, nutritious school meals to more students in high-poverty schools.