***For Immediate Release***
Nearly 100 Nebraska Schools Eligible to Participate in Free School Meals
Today, the Nebraska Department of Education announced 94 schools in Nebraska will be eligible to serve more free meals to students using a powerful new tool known as the “Community Eligibility Provision” during the 2014-15 school year.
Community eligibility allows schools in high-poverty communities to receive funding to provide meals to all students free-of-charge, instead of determining eligibility by the financial situation of each student’s family. This allows qualifying schools that serve a high percentage of low-income children to feed more children, reduce stigma associated with school meals, and potentially save administrative costs.
“With such a significant rate of poverty in nearly 100 schools, it’s clear we have much work to do to address persistent poverty and ensure all Nebraska school children are getting access to nutritious meals on a regular basis,” Nebraska Appleseed Economic Justice Director James Goddard said. “In Nebraska, 16 percent of households with children lack access to adequate food. This is why the community eligibility option is so important for our schools. Community eligibility will help ensure that we are reaching more of our children in need of nutritious breakfast and lunch, helping them to succeed in the classroom and improve their health and long-term well-being.”
In communities across the U.S., community eligibility has led to a substantial increase in the number of children eating breakfast and lunch at school. Daily lunch participation rose 13 percent in schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan, that adopted the Community Eligibility Provision for two years, and daily breakfast participation rose by 25 percent. If there are similar increases in Nebraska, that would mean more than 32,000 additional children would be fed during the school day.
Following today’s announcement, eligible Nebraska schools will have until June 30th to decide whether they will participate in community eligibility.
The program is available to schools where 40 percent or more of the students are approved for free meals without an application because they have been identified as eligible by another program, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program).
“This is an exciting opportunity that Nebraska schools should seize,” Goddard said. “Adopting community eligibility can provide significant benefits not only to our state’s high-poverty schools, but to their many students who might otherwise struggle to get enough food to eat each day.”