Children who live in poverty-stricken communities are less likely than their counterparts to eat a nutritious meal on a regular basis. With 34 percent of Mississippi children living in poverty (the highest in the nation), Mississippi children face numerous health challenges that oftentimes carry with them through adulthood. A clear need exists for programs and initiatives that lift Mississippi children out of poverty and provide our children access to a more positive, healthier future.
The Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 provides an opportunity to improve food access and child nutrition through several initiatives. One of these initiatives is the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
CEP allows high-poverty schools to offer both a nutritious breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students while eliminating the traditional school meal application process. Schools and districts with at least 40 percent of students who were eligible for free meals during the previous school year are eligible to participate in CEP. Presently, CEP provides more than 6.4 million children in nearly 14,000 schools with nutritious meals nationwide. In Mississippi, over 250 eligible schools have adopted CEP with approximately 120,000 students currently served. The prevalence of child poverty in Mississippi underscores the need for CEP in high-poverty schools, ensuring that Mississippi’s most vulnerable children have access to healthy meals and brighter futures.