Report on stigma-free school lunches points to benefits of Healthy School Meals for All

Written by: Children's Campaign
Date Posted: September 9, 2022

In June, the U.S. Census Bureau released a working paper entitled “Stigma Free Lunch: School Meals and Student Discipline.” The report examines the impact of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the National School Lunch Program on student suspension rates. CEP allows high-poverty schools to offer free meals to all students regardless of their family’s household income. The authors approach CEP as a potential avenue for mitigating the well-documented stigma which comes from historic school meal programs.  

The report concludes that the implementation of CEP has a measurable protective effect on suspension rates in participating schools. By the third year of implementation, researchers found that CEP reduces suspension at a statistically significant rate – equating to an approximately 13% reduction in school suspensions. The trend toward increasing effects of CEP over time suggests that the implementation of CEP may initiate a longer-term process of cultural change in participating schools. 

In the context of Colorado’s upcoming midterm election, this report highlights one of the many benefits of the Healthy School Meals for All ballot measure and its potential to establish a permanent free school meal program for all Colorado students.  

Through COVID-19 federal aid, all Colorado schools are currently able to provide school meals to any child, but that will end soon. In November, Colorado voters should vote YES to pass Healthy School Meals for All. This legislation will not only combat the harmful stigma around school lunches and its impact on student success – it will also increase locally sourced foods in school meals, ensure students get the nutrition they need to thrive, invest in Colorado’s public education system and students, reduce administrative costs for schools, and eliminate lunch debt. Learn more about this important ballot measure at, and sign up to support the campaign today. 

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About Children's Campaign

The Colorado Children’s Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization committed since 1985 to realizing every chance for every child in Colorado. We advocate for the development and implementation of data-driven public policies that improve child wellbeing in health, education and early childhood. We do this by providing Coloradans with trusted data and research on child wellbeing and organizing an extensive state-wide network of dedicated child advocates. For more information, please visit