Statement from National Farm to School Network Celebrating the Expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision for Improved Access to Healthy School Meals
From NFSN Co-Executive Directors Jessica Gudmunson and Miguel Villarreal:
“We are thrilled that the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA) has made a groundbreaking decision to implement the proposed rule change to expand the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which provides funding to allow eligible school districts to serve free school meals to all students. Previously, schools qualified for CEP if at least 40% of students identified as low-income (for example, if they are enrolled in SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The rule change will now lower the threshold to 25%, expanding access to free school lunches. According to the Food Research & Action Center, this pivotal decision will provide 9 million students with increased access to nutritious school meals, ensuring they have the fuel to succeed academically and beyond."
"The expansion of the CEP program will lower the threshold for school eligibility, empowering more schools across the nation to serve free, wholesome meals to their students. For the many schools serving local foods, the increased participation in school meals means that benefits of farm to school will ripple out to more students and local farmers alike. The expansion will also make statewide universal meal policies more appealing to state governments by streamlining paperwork and reducing the overall cost of universal meals programs with increased federal reimbursement for school meals.”
“By prioritizing the health and well-being of our youth, the USDA's decision demonstrates a commitment to fighting hunger and promoting equity in educational environments."
"We express our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who participated in the public comment period, advocating for this transformative change. Together, our voices were instrumental in shaping this outcome, and now we will work together to implement the expanded CEP program. This is a momentous victory for the health and future of our children. Together, we will continue striving to ensure that every student has the opportunity to thrive in a nurturing, equal, and food-secure environment."
About National Farm to School Network
National Farm to School Network is the leading voice for the U.S. farm to school and farm to early care and education movement, working as an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities to bring local food sourcing, gardens, and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. Learn more at farmtoschool.org.