USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service seeking public comment on proposed school meals rule
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is seeking public comments through the Federal Register on a proposed rule that would allow more schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and provide no-cost school meals to all students.
The CEP is a meal service option for schools and school districts which allows schools in low-income areas to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students without collecting household applications for free and reduced-price meals. Schools that participate in the CEP are reimbursed based on the percentage of students participating in means-tested programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Allowing more students to access free meals regardless of their families’ income and without having to complete paperwork, reduces stigma on students of lower incomes, reduces administrative burden on school staff, and streamlines school meal operations.
By lowering the minimum identified student percentage (ISP) participation threshold from 40% to 25% per the proposed rule, more schools and school districts will be able to opt-in to the CEP, thus allowing more schools to provide universal school meals. This is especially important for families with lower incomes and those who work in employment sectors where their income can fluctuate, who also are disproportionately families of color. Access to free school meals gives these families peace of mind that their kids will always be able to access the food they need at school.
In November 2022, Colorado voters approved the passage of Proposition FF, which creates the Healthy School Meals for All (HSMA) program. Public school students in districts that opt-in to the HSMA program will receive nutritious, free school meals starting in the 2023-24 school year. This proposed FNS rule would allow more Colorado schools to participate in CEP, drawing down additional federal funds and maximizing federal funding to support the HSMA program.
The Children’s Campaign submitted comments to the Federal Register in support of this proposed rule, and we encourage KidsFlash readers to submit their own comments over the weekend. Comments are due by May 8. For more information on HSMA, check out Hunger Free Colorado’s website.