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September 29, 2023 – Three thousand more school districts in the United States will have the option to serve breakfast and lunch to students at no cost. In an announcement this week from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Community Eligibility Provision was expanded and allows use of existing data from other programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to increase access to healthy foods in these districts. Earlier this year, the Academy advocated for this expansion and championed lowering food costs for families and increasing nutrition security.

In its communication to USDA, the Academy noted that the “Community Eligibility Provision has been key for ensuring all students in eligible schools have access to the nutritious meals needed to grow and learn to their fullest potential, adding that it increases participation in school meals, helps eliminate stigma around participation in free and/or reduced meal provision, reduces administrative burdens, and streamlines food service operations.”

CEP is a proven strategy for reducing household food insecurity and combatting child hunger. School meals are crucial in alleviating childhood food insecurity. Studies continue to show schools are the healthiest place in the U.S. for children to eat and can have a positive impact by helping to reduce racial disparities in health and education, while supporting learning, attendance and behavior.

The change lowering CEP’s eligibility threshold will exert a positive impact on schools and communities, creating the opportunity for more students to have access to school meals and increasing operational efficiencies for more schools. The Academy commends USDA for its continued work to increase access to healthy school meals for more students.

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