The Community Eligibility Provision Helps Feed Kids

Asked about a positive change in federal programs for child nutrition, Lorraine Knight, Executive Director of Nutritional Development Services (NDS) in Philadelphia, and Anne Ayella, Director of Community Relations for NDS, were quick to answer: the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.

CEP allows a school that already has a high percentage of “free-and-reduced-price” students participating in the National School Lunch Program to extend “no cost” breakfast and lunch to every student.

More than two-thirds of the schools for which NDS administers the program are “community eligible.” Knight says that CEP “is one of the most positive items that has come down in the last five years” because it addresses two concerns at once: encouraging healthy food and discouraging prejudice. NDS has found that lunches brought from home tend to have less healthy foods. Also, children who receive free or reduced-priced meals can be stigmatized, which make them and their families less willing to join in.

CEP reverses both situations. Ayella explains: “The success of CEP is that everybody gets a healthy meal and so more and more children are participating.” NDS would like to see similar changes beyond school lunches. “One little tweak that would benefit, we feel, more children in the area concerns our summer programs,” Ayella says. “Traditionally, those sites are able to offer summer meals in areas where 50 percent of the children go to schools that receive reduced-cost or no-cost meals. Our hope is that the threshold can be lowered to 40 percent so that more children would be eligible.”

NDS is an organization alive with people who have a passion for relieving child hunger. They are a great example of different groups working together for the common good: federal, state, and local. With this kind of collaboration in every part of the nation, child hunger may indeed be a thing of the past.