NC Budget and Tax Center

Countdown to opt into universal school meal initiative (22 days)

Twenty-two (22) days remain for eligible local schools in North Carolina to confirm whether they will adopt a universal school meal program for the 2014-15 school year.

One in five American schoolchildren can’t count on getting enough nutritious food at home. North Carolina can improve this bleak fact by encouraging eligible schools to sign up now for the newly available community eligibility initiative, joining in a proven model already helping to end childhood hunger.

Students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from this initiative, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day. Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn means students are inclined to be more focused and attentive, less distracted, and more engaged.

A recent Herald Sun article highlighting Durham Public Schools’ (DPS) universal breakfast program notes that national data show that school districts that provide universal breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and more focused students. In schools that DPS piloted its universal breakfast program, an additional 64,971 breakfast meals were served from the start of school through March 3, compared to the same period the previous school year. DPS’s universal breakfast program also resulted in increased federal and state reimbursement funding. Schools in other states that have adopted universal school meal programs have experienced similar outcomes.

Some local school boards have confirmed their intention to adopt community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year: Jones County Schools, Cherokee County Schools, Hickory City Schools, Hoke County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Halifax County Schools, Scotland County Schools, Hertford County Schools, and Northampton County Schools are among local schools systems that plan to adopt community eligibility. This is a positive step and it is important that other eligible schools across the Tar Heel state join this initiative that ensures that children are fed and ready to learn.

A listing of all North Carolina school districts and individual schools that are eligible for community eligibility for the 2014-15 school year can be found via the NC Department of Public Instruction website.

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