March 4, 2019
Community eligibility is a federal provision that allows high-poverty schools and school districts to offer breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students. Community eligibility increases school meal participation, reduces food insecurity, and improves school nutrition budgets. More than 24,000 schools nationwide have implemented this provision in the 2017-2018 school year.
Now is the time of year to develop community eligibility outreach plans and start conversations with eligible school districts. Below is information to help ensure eligible school districts apply for community eligibility with their state agency by the June 30, 2019 deadline — which is quickly approaching!
Why apply for community eligibility?
- Schools that implement community eligibility see participation in both breakfast and lunch increase, which means that more children have the nutrition they need to learn in the classroom and be healthy.
- With community eligibility, school meal applications are not collected or processed, which reduces administrative costs and frees up staff time.
- Offering meals free to all students means that schools don’t have to collect unpaid meal fees or cover the cost of meals when families struggle to pay.
Which school districts should advocates target?
Advocates can engage all school districts that have at least one school eligible for community eligibility. Much of the “low‑hanging fruit,” such as schools with “identified student percentages” (ISPs) above 60 percent, have already implemented the provision, but if not, these schools are a clear outreach target.
Providing information and conducting outreach to eligible schools and school districts with lower ISPs can also help increase the number of schools implementing community eligibility. FRAC’s new resource, Community Eligibility: Making it Work With Lower ISPs, can help guide conversations with school districts that have schools with ISPs between 40 and 60 percent about applying for community eligibility.
Where can advocates find data to identify eligible schools?
On May 1st of each year, state agencies are required to publish on their websites new data showing which schools are currently participating in, eligible for, or near-eligible for community eligibility. When May 1, 2019, arrives, use FRAC’s community eligibility map to find the latest data available.
In the meantime, advocates can use FRAC’s Community Eligibility Database, which includes the data that were published by each state last May. While these data are nearly a year old, they can help in identifying school districts to target. Once advocates begin engaging with school districts directly, it is important to get up-to-date ISP data from the school district and plan for community eligibility implementation using the new information.
How can FRAC help advocates with outreach?
FRAC is developing new community eligibility implementation tools and resources for advocates to use in assisting school districts with planning for community eligibility. We are very excited about three new resources:
- Community Eligibility: Making it Work With Lower ISPs
- Understanding the Relationship Between Community Eligibility and Title I Funding
- Direct Certification Improves Low-Income Student Access to School Meals: An Updated Guide to Direct Certification
Also, keep an eye out for new resources that will cover topics such as strategies for grouping schools together for community eligibility and tools to help school districts plan for community eligibility implementation.
FRAC also is hosting a series of community eligibility webinars that take deep dives into different policy topics. View our first webinar covering community eligibility basics, tools, and implementation tips, which was co-hosted by FRAC; AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO); and the School Nutrition Association (SNA). Register today for upcoming webinars.
FRAC’s breakfast team can assist advocates with identifying target school districts and provide technical assistance on different community eligibility policy issues. For more information, contact Alison Maurice, Child Nutrition Policy Analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org.