WASHINGTON, May 27, 2020 — More schools and school districts are providing breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students through community eligibility, according to Community Eligibility: The Key to Hunger-Free Schools, School Year 2019–2020, a new report released today by the Food Research & Action Center. The report finds 30,667 schools participated in community eligibility, an increase of 1,910 schools, or 6.6 percent, from the prior school year.
Participation in community eligibility by schools has grown each year since it became available nationwide in school year 2014–2015, with 14.9 million students now attending schools providing school meals at no charge to all students through community eligibility.
The report analyzes participation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. By offering breakfast and lunch at no charge, more children eat school breakfast and lunch and are able to experience the educational and health benefits linked to participating in school meals.
Several states saw significant increases in the 2019–2020 school year. Texas experienced the largest growth in the number of schools participating, increasing by 534 schools. California, Michigan, Nevada, and Indiana followed in school participation growth by adding 442, 154, 149, and 100 schools, respectively.
Participation in school districts and schools varied significantly by state, with the highest performer, North Dakota, serving all students breakfast and lunch at no charge in all schools that were eligible for community eligibility. Nationally, 69 percent of eligible schools participate in community eligibility, which means there is still room for growth.
“Community eligibility is the smart choice for schools. It reduces administrative work for schools and families, while making school breakfast and lunch accessible for all families in high needs schools and eliminating school lunch debt,” said Luis Guardia, president, the Food Research & Action Center.
For the eligible schools and school districts that are not participating, strong state, district, and school-level leadership; hands-on technical assistance from national, state, and local stakeholders; and peer-to-peer learning among districts can help support their implementation of community eligibility.
As school districts look ahead to the 2020–2021 school year, community eligibility offers school districts an important opportunity to meet their students’ nutritional needs, particularly as millions of families are being impacted by the economic crisis being driven by COVID-19.
The Food Research & Action Center is the leading national nonprofit organization working to eradicate poverty-related hunger and undernutrition in the United States.
About Community Eligibility: The Key to Hunger-Free Schools, School Year 2019–2020
This report analyzes community eligibility implementation — nationally and for each state and the District of Columbia — in the 2019–2020 school year, and is based on three measures: the number of eligible and participating school districts and schools; the share of eligible districts and schools that have adopted community eligibility; and the number and share of eligible schools that are participating, based on the school’s poverty level.