U.S. schools in high-poverty areas will have a way to certify that all students in the school can receive meals at no cost to the students.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act provided schools and districts that predominately serve low-income children with a new option for meal certification, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Under the Community Eligibility Provision, schools do not collect or process meal applications for free and reduced-price meals served in the federal school lunch and breakfast programs. Instead, schools must serve all meals at no cost with any costs in excess of the Federal reimbursement paid from non-Federal sources, according to the release.
A report from the Food Research and Action Center said more than 2,200 high-poverty schools, serving nearly 1 million children in seven states, operated under community eligibility during the 2012-13 school year.
Schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan choosing community eligibility nearly doubled in the second year during which the option was available, according to the release. Participation grew from 86.5% from 665 schools in the 2011-12 school year to 1,240 schools in the 2012-13 school year, according to the release.
The report said that in schools in those three states that participated in community eligibility for two years, participation in the lunch program rose 13% and 23,000 additional students were eating lunch daily. Nationwide implementation for the program will occur in 2014-15, according to the report.