All New York City public school students will now receive free lunch starting this school year. The New York City Department of Education (NYS DOE) announced the expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a federal provision that allows school districts to provide meals free of charge to all enrolled students, to all public schools city-wide.

This expansion of CEP will provide over 200,000 more students with free lunch starting this school year.  New York City schools should be commended for taking a major step toward ending the shame and stigma too often associated with free or reduced price school meals. Improvements to New York State’s data systems has allowed the city to sign up for CEP and will open the door for many more districts across the state. This “Free School Lunch for All” initiative will benefit all NYC families regardless of where they live or attend school.

In the NYC DOE statement, both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Carmen Fariña highlight how “Free School Lunch for All” is an important step in supporting student health and academic success by ensuring all NYC students are well-nourished and ready to learn.

The statement also highlights New York State Education Department’s recent improvements to direct certification as the catalyst for this landmark change in school meals in New York City. NYC DOE’s implementation of CEP city-wide coincides with recent improvements to the way New York State identifies students who qualify for free school meals without a household income application – due to their participation in another government program such as SNAP or Medicaid. Improved efficiency and accuracy has yielded an increase in the number of students directly certified, allowing the City to qualify for the highest level of reimbursement in the federal CEP program. The number of families living in poverty has not increased; the changes to the matching process allow the City to better identify families.

For more information on  CEP, visit our Community Eligibility Provision page.