The FY-2018 House Budget Resolution includes a troubling provision that would significantly cut the number of schools eligible to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, a federal option for high-poverty schools to offer free school meals to all students. Under the proposal, the eligibility to adopt CEP would be restricted to schools with an Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of 60% or more; the current threshold is an ISP of 40%. This is misguided because the ISP only includes students certified for free school meals without an application and does not include the low-income students certified by submitting an application for free or reduced-price school meals, so the proposal actually would target schools with low-income student populations that are typically between 64 and 96 percent.
The impact would be felt in schools throughout the state. Approximately 569 high-poverty schools, with a total student enrollment of 177,166 currently participating in CEP would lose the opportunity to provide universal meals to all students under this proposal. An additional 781 schools who are eligible for CEP currently would lose this option for future years. Schools from Buffalo to Long Island, large urban districts and rural county districts alike, would bear the brunt of this significant cut. Taking away this important and effective program would decrease access to crucial school meal programs for low-income communities, increase unnecessary and bureaucratic paperwork for high-poverty schools, and divert time and resources away from providing nutritious meals to support health and learning.