A powerful new initiative aimed at reducing childhood hunger will be available to around 1,200 high-poverty schools in North Carolina this upcoming school year. This initiative, known as community eligibility, allows qualifying schools to serve meals free of charge to all students, ensuring that children whose families are struggling to put food on the table have access to healthy meals at school.
Last year, North Carolina got off to a good start with nearly 650 schools using community eligibility to feed more than 310,000 kids. This upcoming school year, hundreds more schools are eligible to participate.
Results show that more NC children are eating school meals because of community eligibility, with a particular increase in the number of children eating breakfast. This means that more children are fueled up and ready to learn at school each day.
When children arrive at school hungry, it is very difficult for them to concentrate and do well in the classroom. By providing schools meals to all of our children free of charge, we are both reducing hunger and increasing their chances of student success.
In addition to helping reduce hunger for greater numbers of low-income students, community eligibility also helps schools and school districts streamline their operations and reduce paperwork. When more children eat, the per-meal cost of serving meals decreases. These economies of scale, combined with administrative simplifications, help to cover the cost of providing meals to students who might otherwise pay.
Community eligibility is a win-win for local communities. By reducing hunger, children are better able to succeed in school, teachers are better able to teach, and resources are directed to children rather than paperwork. Unfortunately, some school systems face financial barriers – such as a rural school system in eastern NC that would need to raise around $60,000 – that prevent them from participating in community eligibility. Here is an opportunity where state-level support can help address child hunger, promote student success, and strengthen local communities.
The eligible schools that are not currently participating in this initiative now have the opportunity to follow and build onto the promising start of hundreds of schools in our state who are now participating in community eligibility. They should seize this important opportunity to ensure that all of North Carolina’s kids are fueled up and ready to learn each day!
Eligible schools have until August 31st to decide whether they will participate in community eligibility for the upcoming 2015-16 school year. For a list of all schools that qualify for community eligibility, follow this link to NC DPI’s website.