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Community Eligibility: A Path to Eliminating Hunger in Over 25,000 Schools

Community eligibility, a provision of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, will allow more than 25,000 schools in high-poverty neighborhoods to offer nutritious meals to all students at no charge next year, as we explain in a new paper.

School districts can offer community eligibility district-wide or in selected schools within a district if more than 40 percent of their students are approved for free meals without an application based on data from other programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), that serve low-income children.

Community eligibility has been phased in over the last three years.  About 4,000 schools in 600 school districts in low-income communities across 11 states already offer community eligibility.

Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, high-poverty schools and school districts in all states will be eligible to adopt community eligibility to help reduce hunger and make school meal programs more efficient.

Most states have now published their lists of eligible schools and districts.  Those lists show that more than 25,000 schools serving predominantly low-income students are eligible to offer community eligibility for the next school year (see table).  These schools represent more than one in six schools across the country.  About 2,800 school districts — one in five school districts — could offer community eligibility district-wide.

Eligible school districts have until June 30, 2014 to opt in.