Community Eligibility

Community Eligibility Adoption Rises for 2015-2016 School Year:

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

Read the latest report by FRAC and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (pdf).

Search the eligible and participating schools database.

See how your state compares on our interactive maps.

Schools That Can Adopt Community Eligibility for SY 2016 – 2017

Community eligibility is a powerful tool for schools with high concentrations of low-income children to provide breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Community eligibility reduces administrative paperwork for schools, allowing them to focus on providing healthy meals so students can learn and thrive. At the same time, it increases the number of students participating 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.

Established in the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act and made available to high-poverty schools nationwide in school year 2014-2015, community eligibility has grown to impact 8.5 million students who now can receive two healthy school meals at no charge. More than 18,000 high-poverty schools have implemented community eligibility, but there are just as many eligible schools that have not yet adopted the cost-saving provision. The deadline to apply for the 2016-2017 school year has been extended to August 31, 2016, giving eligible schools more time to apply for this exciting opportunity.

Learn more about the basics of community eligibility and how schools qualify:

  • FRAC Facts: Community Eligibility (pdf)
    This resource covers the basics of community eligibility and highlights the many benefits of the program for both students and schools.

Outreach Tools and Resources

Find eligible schools in your state or school district, advocate for community eligibility with your local school officials, and highlight and support community eligibility implementation.

  • An Advocate’s Guide to Promoting Community Eligibility (pdf) (Updated July 2016)
    This toolkit, developed by FRAC and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, provides action steps on how to best inform eligible school districts, understand the analysis and policy work regarding Community Eligibility, and engage relevant stakeholders, and sample outreach materials to help you get started.
  • Database of Participating and Eligible Schools
    Use FRAC’s database of schools participating in and eligible for community eligibility in the 2016-2017 school year to help you identify and target eligible schools in your community.

Making the Finances Work

Community eligibility has a number of financial benefits. It reduces labor costs, facilitates economies of scale purchasing, eliminates unpaid meal costs, and increases the number of students accessing the meal programs. Because finances play a big part of the decision making process, it is important for school districts to fully understand the financial implications to make the best decision for their school district.

Watch USDA’s Webinars on evaluating the finances:

  • Making “Cents” of CEP at 40-50% ISP (Feb. 24, 2016)
    This webinar highlights best practices for schools adopting community eligibility with identified student percentages that fall between the 40%- 50% range.

Policy Resources

USDA and the U.S. Department of Education have developed a number of resources on best practices for implementation, frequently asked questions, and comprehensive guidance for community eligibility schools to access educational funding sources that traditionally rely on free and reduced-price school meal information, like Title 1 or E-Rate.

USDA Implementation Guidance:

Implications for Eliminating School Meal Applications:

  • Summary of State Education Funding Policies (pdf) updated October 2016 – FRAC and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities compiled a list of state education funding policies states have developed to accommodate schools participating in community eligibility that no longer have access to individual school meal application data.