More than 20,000 high-needs schools across the country are now offering a healthy school breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students, thanks to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) — a game-changing opportunity for high-needs schools to end hunger, improve nutrition, and reduce paperwork.

Now is the time for schools to get on board and adopt community eligibility — school districts must apply to their state agency by June 30 for the 2017–2018 school year.

How it Works

Community eligibility eliminates the school meal application process, which can be burdensome for families and schools, and reduces administrative work for school nutrition staff so they can focus on feeding children.

Instead of household applications, the reimbursements schools receive for meals served are determined by a formula based on the number of “identified students” — children in households participating in other government assistance programs, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Any school with 40 percent or more identified students can participate and school districts can choose to implement community eligibility in individual schools, groups of certain schools, or districtwide.

As many families continue to struggle with low wages, they rely on programs, such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs to help stretch limited budgets. By making school meals free for all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, schools support healthier students and better learning outcomes, and reduce childhood hunger.

What Advocates can do

Schools across the nation are realizing the benefits of community eligibility — but there are still many more eligible schools that have not signed up yet. Right now, eligible school districts have the chance to take advantage of this important opportunity that addresses child hunger in their schools.

There are three easy ways advocates can help spread the word about community eligibility and encourage eligible school districts to consider this opportunity:

  • Urge schools to participate. Find out if your local school qualifies for community eligibility by checking FRAC’s map for a list of eligible schools. Write a letter to key decision-makers, including school board members, superintendents, and other administrators, urging support for the program and to sign up before the June 30 deadline for the 2017–2018 school year. Use USDA’s sample outreach letters to encourage your superintendent to opt into community eligibility.
  • Promote community eligibility. Advocates can publish letters to the editor and op-eds in local newspapers, conduct outreach to local reporters, and speak about the importance of adopting community eligibility at local forums and coalition meetings.
  • Get vocal on social. Advocates can use social media to help spread the word  about districts in your state that have chosen to adopt community eligibility. Social media can also be used to communicate the benefits of the program and share local media coverage. Use the hashtags #schoolmeals and #communityeligiblity.

See our Advocate’s Guide to Promoting Community Eligibility for more ideas and examples.

For more information and resources, visit FRAC’s Community Eligibility page or contact Jessie Hewins at