- The New York City Department of Education now joins districts in other large cities, such as Boston, Detroit and Baltimore, in serving free breakfast and lunch in schools under the Community Eligibility Provision, which drops the requirement that they collect household applications, District Administration reports.
- The provision instead uses a formula based on participation in other programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which can be a challenge for school districts in high-cost-of-living communities.
- The program eliminates “food shaming,” the impact of the lack of parental participation in completing qualifying forms, and the need for school staff to collect school lunch debt.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, the Community Eligibility Provision provides free breakfast and lunch to students in communities where 40% or more of students qualify for free meals. The impact on communities that qualify for the provision is profound because it reduces the stress of administering school nutrition programs and reduces incidents of "lunch shaming” because it places all students in the program on the same footing.
Comments by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, however, have some people questioning whether the provision will remain in its current form. Last year, a Republican-led bill called the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003), which would have changed the parameters of the provision, failed. Republicans who pushed for the bill felt that the 40% criteria meant that most parents in the community could have afforded the cost of the meals and some feel that a 60% requirement is more appropriate.
However the lines will be drawn in the future, both sides agree that the need for good nutrition at schools is undeniable. Students who face food insecurity usually do not perform well at school. Recent efforts at improving nutrition at school have not stopped at school nutrition funding. More schools are now incorporating real gardens or Edible Schoolyard projects into their curriculum in order to help students see fresh foods in a new light.