Universal meal program is ending hunger in high-poverty schools (as long as they sign up)

28.7 percent of Mississippi children do not have consistent, dependable access to nutritious food at home. The high-poverty community eligibility provision has extended school meals to thousands more Mississippi students, but hundreds of eligible schools still have not signed up.

There are a significant number of children in our state whose families are struggling to put food on the table. Proper nutrition is critical for children’s growth and development. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap 2014, more than one in four children (28.7 percent) in Mississippi are food insecure, MEPC Logomeaning they do not have consistent, dependable access to nutritious food at home. However, school districts in Mississippi can help eliminate child hunger as part of the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program’s Community Eligibility Provision.

Schools in Mississippi Adopt Universal Meal Program - January 2, 2015 Image 3-01-01Community eligibility is a universal meal program that provides breakfast and lunch at no cost to students in high-poverty schools. Approximately half of eligible schools in Mississippi opted to adopt community eligibility for the 2014-2015 school year (See map). Some school systems adopted the meal program district-wide while others offer it in selected schools within their district. Together, these schools and school districts serve more than 135,000 students.

While the state has made great progress in the first year of this nation-wide initiative, many students in high-poverty schools are not benefitting from the meal program. Over 280 eligible high-poverty schools in Mississippi chose not to participate in community eligibility this school year, leaving thousands of children without access to nutritious meals. Research shows that increasing breakfast participation not only improves students’ diets, but also their behavior and achievement in school By adopting community eligibility, schools can ensure Mississippi’s most vulnerable students succeed and have brighter futures.

For more information, read the full report from the Food Research and Action Center and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


Featured photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

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