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Is Your School Eligible to Become Hunger Free?

With the August 31 deadline fast approaching for schools to adopt the Community Eligibility Provision for the 2015-2016 school year, we’ve created a searchable database listing each state’s eligible schools.

Community eligibility enables high-poverty schools and school districts to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge.  More than 14,000 high-poverty schools that serve more than 6.5 million students adopted the option last year.  That, however, is only about half of the eligible schools.  School districts now have another chance to implement community eligibility.

Some school districts have already applied to participate in community eligibility for the coming school year.  Baltimore Public Schools will serve free breakfast and lunch to more than 85,000 children, for example, and Richland One Public Schools in Columbia, South Carolina recently chose to adopt community eligibility to eliminate hunger from all of its schools.  School districts that are already using community eligibility are expanding it to more schools.

Yet many more schools can still benefit from community eligibility.  This database shows which ones are eligible and which ones have already adopted it.  The database also lists each school’s Identified Student Percentage (ISP), or the share of students who are already approved for free meals without an application because they either have been identified as low income by another program (such as SNAP, formerly food stamps) or are considered at risk of hunger (because they are homeless or in foster care, for example).

School districts, individual schools, or groups of schools can qualify for community eligibility if their ISP is at least 40 percent.  And under community eligibility, schools with higher ISPs receive higher federal reimbursements for the meals they serve.  Schools with ISPs of 62.5 percent or higher represent the highest-poverty schools and receive the highest federal reimbursement for all meals served, which puts the school meal programs on sound financial footing.