Community eligibility is a powerful tool for high-poverty schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Community eligibility reduces administrative paperwork for schools so they can focus on providing healthy meals to help students learn and thrive; increases school meal participation by removing stigma; maximizes federal reimbursements; and makes it easier to implement innovative service models like Breakfast in the Classroom. Community eligibility is a win for everyone — administrators, students, families, and school nutrition staff.

QUICK FACTS: Community Eligibility in the 2015–2016 School Year

  • There are 18,247 schools participating in 2,979 school districts.
  • More than 8.5 million children attend community eligibility schools.
  • About 4,000 additional schools participated during the 2014–2015 school year.

Since the program became available nationwide in the 2014–2015 school year, community eligibility has continued to expand year over year as more schools learn about its many benefits. Still, there are many eligible schools that have not yet implemented the program and continued outreach and education and advocacy to overcome policy challenges can help ensure more high-poverty schools can participate.

Implications for Eliminating School Meals Applications
Federal agencies have provided guidance for community eligibility schools to access federal educational funding sources that traditionally relied on free and reduced-price school meal information, such as Title I or E-Rate. Often, states need to adjust policies to ensure community eligibility schools can access state education funding targeted to low-income students. Check out these resources to learn more:

USDA Resources

Check out USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision Resource Center for webinars and other resources on community eligibility, including financial considerations, implementation strategies, outreach, and policy guidance.

Visit the Resource Center