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Little things can make big differences in children’s lives

This is part of a Back to School blog series that highlight various issues to be aware of as the 2014-15 school year kicks off. (See Part 1 [1], Part 2 [2], Part 3 [3], and Part 4 [4])

Little things can make big differences in children’s lives. Something as simple as arriving to class with food in your stomach can enhance a child’s learning experience. Many schools across North Carolina recognize this and are offering breakfast and lunch to all of their students at no charge this school year.

As part of the nationwide Community Eligibility Program (CEP), high-poverty schools in at least 36 school systems across North Carolina [5] will provide breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. This effort not only aims to help end childhood hunger – one in five American schoolchildren can’t count on getting enough nutritious food at home – but also aims to enhance the classroom experience of students. Ensuring that children show up in classrooms each day fed and ready to learn increases the chances of students being more focused, attentive, and engaged.

The school year marks the first year in which eligible schools nationwide can participate in CEP. With all students provided breakfast and lunch free of charge, participating schools are no longer required to collect school meal applications, which reduces administrative costs. These cost savings can now be directed towards covering the cost of the school meals that are provided.

High-poverty schools in other states that have offered breakfast and lunch to all their students free of charge have seen significant increases in the number of kids participating in their school meal programs. Here in North Carolina, Durham Public Schools offers breakfast to all its students free of charge and saw a huge increase in the number of meals served last school year [6]. National data show that school districts that provide breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and students are more focused.

The CEP initiative serves as a great step in helping end childhood hunger and ensuring that all students in North Carolina are afforded a quality education. So, as we embark upon a new and exciting school year, let’s make sure students attending CEP schools arrive to school on time each day in order to receive their free-of-charge breakfast, the most important meal of the day!

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 [7].