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Guest Post: The Hunger Problem in Our Schools

Guest Post: The Hunger Problem in Our Schools

Posted July 31, 2014

Community Eligibility Can Help End Hunger in Schools

Children who are hungry cannot learn, yet hunger is an everyday reality for over 927,000 children across New York State (NYS). Low-income NYS families often turn to free or reduced-price school meals to ensure their children have access to affordable, good nutrition. Numerous studies confirm that hunger interferes with a child’s ability to learn, grow, and stay healthy. Across NYS, over 1.4 million students rely on free school meals to provide the nutrition they need for good health and academic success.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is the newest opportunity for schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. CEP allows more students to eat, and gives school staff more time to focus on students’ nutritional and educational needs rather than on paperwork.

Less Paperwork for Schools

Schools that adopt CEP no longer collect free and reduced-price school meal applications. Under CEP, reimbursements are not based on applications, but on the number of low-income students who are automatically eligible for free school meals—which includes children who are in foster care or Head Start, are homeless or migrant, or who live in households that receive SNAP, TANF cash assistance, or Food Distribution on Indian Reservation benefits. To qualify for CEP, 40% or more of a school’s, a group of schools’, or a district’s total enrollment must be certified for free school meals without a paper application.

A Win-Win for Schools – But the Clock is Ticking

CEP is a good call for school districts, but the clock is ticking: School districts have until August 31st to decide whether to participate for the 2014-2015 school year.

CEP is making a profound difference for students and the 416 schools in 67 school districts across New York State that implemented CEP in the 2013-2014 school year. According to a 2013 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Food Research and Action Center, “Community Eligibility: Making High-Poverty Schools Hunger Free,” schools that implemented this provision over two years saw breakfast participation increase by 25 percent and lunch participation rise by 13 percent.

The benefits don’t end there. CEP is a catalyst for other improvements to the school meals program. For example, during its first year of implementation, Community Eligibility is helping Schenectady City School District schools employ innovative breakfast strategies, like breakfast in the classroom. District breakfast participation has increased, leading to higher school meal participation and higher attendance rates.

Take the Next Step

The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has published a list of schools that should consider applying for CEP and is now accepting applications from schools. NYSED’s recent memo provides more information, application instructions, and other resources.

If you want to bring Community Eligibility to your school district, Hunger Solutions New York’s CEP newsletter and Food Research Action Center’s Community Eligibility fact sheet (downloadable PDF file) have the information you need.

Posted by :

Jessica L. Pino, LMSW
Child Nutrition Programs Specialist
Hunger Solutions New York

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