Schools encouraged to fight classroom hunger with Community Eligibility as students return
Hunger advocates urge eligible schools to ensure all students are getting healthy meals
As Nebraska children head back to school this month, hunger advocates urged eligible Nebraska schools to begin using a proven tool to ensure students are getting the healthy meals they need to learn and grow.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools in high-poverty areas to receive federal funds that enable them to serve meals free of charge to all students, ensuring that children whose families are struggling to put food on the table have access to healthy meals at school.
Eligible schools interested in participating in CEP can still apply for the 2016-17 school year by contacting the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE). According to data released by NDE earlier this year, 104 schools in the state will be eligible to feed students via CEP for the upcoming school year.
Three schools in North Platte became the most-recent additions to the list of schools applying to use CEP to fight classroom hunger. North Platte’s Lincoln Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, and Buffalo Elementary School are awaiting approval to begin CEP participation this fall, which will help the schools provide meals to more than 860 students at no cost to their families.
“Data shows students are healthier and more prepared for classroom success when they are receiving the meals they need,” said Stuart Simpson, North Platte Public Schools Business and Finance Director. “We’re excited to use the opportunity provided by Community Eligibility to invest in our students and make sure no child is going into the classroom thinking about being hungry instead of being ready to learn.”
Despite this additional participation, Nebraska continues to lag nationally in using CEP to help students get the food they need. Only 17 of the 104 eligible schools (16.3 percent) have signed up to participate in CEP in 2016-17. According to a report released in April by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Nebraska ranks second from last nationally in CEP participation, ahead of only New Hampshire.
CEP became available to schools nationwide in 2012, and quickly has become a popular and effective tool in schools across the country. In 2015-16, more than 18,000 eligible schools in 3,000 school districts across the U.S. participated in CEP.
Eric Savaiano, the economic justice program associate at Nebraska Appleseed, encouraged all eligible Nebraska schools to contact Nebraska Appleseed to learn more about how CEP can help their students.
“Community Eligibility is a tool to fight classroom hunger that has been proven successful in states across the country,” Savaiano said. “Ensuring our kids have healthy meals sets them up for success in the future. Children who are getting the meals they need are better able to learn and perform in school, and that has a lifelong impact.”
About Community Eligibility
CEP 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 “food stamps”).
In addition to helping fight hunger for greater numbers of low-income students, community eligibility also helps schools and school districts streamline their operations and reduce paperwork. When more children eat, the per-meal cost of serving meals decreases.