Community Eligibility Provision
The Community Eligibility Provision is a new option that allows schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. Included in the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, community eligibility simplifies administrative processes by removing the need for individual free and reduced-price meal applications, which can be confusing for families and burdensome for schools to collect and process. Instead, schools are reimbursed for school meals through a formula based on the number of “identified students” that are in foster care or Head Start, are homeless, migrant or living in households that receive SNAP (food stamps), TANF cash assistance or the Food Distribution on Indian Reservation benefits.
During the 2014-2015 school year, over 374 schools were eligible to participate, yet only 23 schools elected to participate in community eligibility. In 2015, as a result of the passage of the Hunger-Free Schools Act of 2015, which increased access to community eligibility, the number of participating schools increased to 227. The Community Eligibility Provision is utilized in 8 counties, including Baltimore City and Somerset County, where the Provision has been implemented district-wide.