Ensuring that children begin each school day with food in their stomach is an important component of providing a high quality education to all North Carolina students. Combating child hunger helps address the unfortunate reality that 1 in 5 North Carolina children do not have reliable access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food each day, which threatens their classroom learning experiences, well-being and life outcomes.
More than half of the more than 1.4 million students that attended North Carolina’s public schools for the 2015-16 school year qualified for free or reduced cost school meals – that’s around 749,000 students. However, far too many students don’t eat school meal programs for several reasons, such as a lack of time, the stigma associated with the traditional delivery method that schools use to serve school meals, and a lack of awareness about school meal programs.
Two particular anti-hunger initiatives have come to North Carolina in recent years that aim to increase the number of students eating school meals. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) initiative enables eligible schools that serve a high concentration of low-income students to offer a healthy school breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Furthermore, the Partners for Breakfast In Classroom (PBIC) initiative provides grants to eligible school to adopt breakfast delivery programs that allow students to eat school breakfast in the classroom after the first bell. The Budget & Tax Center is a state partner in the PBIC initiative.
More than 700 schools participated in the CEP initiative and more than 800 schools offered innovative breakfast delivery models, which included breakfast in the classroom after the bell, during the 2015-16 school year. This is great news that should be applauded and built upon. There are more North Carolina schools that are eligible to participate in CEP and PBIC, and we should encourage and support these schools in joining these worthwhile initiatives. Here is some helpful information about the two child anti-hunger initiatives:
Community Eligibility Provision
- Now is the time for schools to get on board and adopt community eligibility for the upcoming 2017-18 school year — school districts must notify the NC Department of Public Instruction of their intention to participate in CEP by June 30.
- Community eligibility eliminates the school meal application process, which can be burdensome for families and schools, and reduces administrative work for school nutrition staff so they can focus on feeding children.
Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom
- Superintendent (or designee) of eligible school should submit a letter of support expressing intent to participate in the PBIC initiative by Aug. 1, 2017, and complete the PBIC application by Dec. 15, 2017.
- Grant funding is provided to eligible schools to support the implementation of breakfast in the classroom after the bell.
- Participating schools are asked to make a three-year commitment to making reasonable effort to offer a breakfast in classroom program.
- Visit org to learn more about the PBIC initiative, eligibility criteria for schools, and grant funding criteria.
The CEP and PBIC initiatives are promising opportunities to increase the number of students actually eating school meals. When kids arrive to the classroom fed, they are better prepared to get the most of their learning experience – including better standardized test performance as well as improved comprehension and memory. With such positive upside outcomes, such efforts to ensure that more North Carolina students eat school meals are a no-brainer!
Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.