July 1, 2020

Community eligibility allows school districts to offer free school meals to all students. Here are five reasons to take a fresh look at community eligibility now.

  1. Community eligibility offers school districts and schools an important opportunity to meet the nutritional needs of their students, particularly as millions of families are losing jobs and wages due to the economic crisis being driven by COVID-19.
  2. More school districts and schools are eligible for the 2020–2021 school year because of the dramatic increase in families participating in SNAP.
  3. School districts have more time to use direct certification to improve their identified student percentages (ISP) and to consider community eligibility this summer. USDA issued a nationwide waiver that extends the extending the deadline for schools to elect community eligibility to August 31, 2020.
  4. Community eligibility is a win-win for school districts and families. Offering school meals that are free to all students provides critical support to low-income families. For school districts, community eligibility simplifies program operations, provides a steady stream of federal revenue to school districts, and eliminates the need to collect unpaid meal fees. Community eligibility also facilitates the implementation of innovative delivery models.
  5. There are lots of resources to assist school districts as they consider adopting community eligibility.


Below are resources and tools to help ensure eligible school districts apply for community eligibility by August 31.

Community Eligibility Resources

  • Take a Fresh Look at Community Eligibility for the 2020–2021 School Year
  • CEP Grouping Tool and Financial Calculators: School districts and other stakeholders can use these NEW tools to group schools strategically and to maximize the federal funding received.
    • Grouping Tool: This tool will group schools strategically to maximize the federal funding a school district will receive.
    • CEP Break-Even Calculator: This calculator will provide you with an overview of the participation rates required to break even on an average daily basis.
    • CEP District Level Calculator: This calculator is designed to help you assess the financial considerations of operating community eligibility at the district level.
    • CEP School Level Calculator: This calculator is designed to help you assess the financial considerations of operating community eligibility at the school level.
  • Every year, state agencies are required to publish new data showing which schools are currently participating in, eligible for, or near-eligible for community eligibility. The May 1 deadline was pushed to June 15 as part of the nationwide waiver. Use FRAC’s community eligibility mapto find the latest data available for each state. If data are not available for their state, advocates can use FRAC’s Community Eligibility Databasewhich 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.
  • 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.

FRAC also is hosting a series of community eligibility webinars that take deep dives into different topics. Register today for upcoming webinars.

Questions on community eligibility? Please contact Etienne Melcher Philbin, emelcher@frac.org.