Free Meals for Students

Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools across the nation are now able to provide all poor students with nutritious breakfasts and lunches free of charge, through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. In order to do so, schools need to gain “community eligibility.” Community eligibility works by automatically providing for students who already receive some form of assistance, such as food stamps, and accepting applications from the remaining students. Currently, schools across the nation have the opportunity to gain community eligibility for the 2015-2016 school year. So far, over 14,000 schools in impoverished areas have gained eligibility, thus providing over 6.6 million students with nutritious meals free of charge.

Every day, millions of children across the country attend school without much to eat. Therefore, It is absolutely crucial for schools, especially in poverty stricken areas, to gain community eligibility, and provide free breakfast and lunch to hungry students. Without proper nutrition, students may be too hungry to care about schoolwork, or lack the energy to be engaged in class, both of which may result in less effective learning. Furthermore, proper nutrition is necessary for physical growth and development, and maintaining proper health. Also, students who attend school hungrily may appear weak, and influence the teacher to challenge them less, thus weakening their productivity.


While many eligible schools have gained community eligibility, a large portion of schools have not, as shown in the map above. As of February, 14,214 eligible schools, with a total of 6,661,462 students, have gained community eligibility; this represents about half of all eligible schools nation wide. Some states, such as Montana and West Virginia, are doing a good job in gaining community eligibility in eligible schools, while others such as New Hampshire and Colorado or not. This represents a large problem in these and other lacking states that need to take control and help the hungry children. However, community eligibility just became available nationwide beginning this year, which may be the reason why some states, such as Rhode Island and Nebraska, have taken little advantage of the program. The total percentages of eligible schools gaining community eligibility per state are shown below.


By August 31, eligible school districts must notify the state that they would like to gain community eligibility for next school year. Hopefully, more and more eligible schools in highly impoverished areas will gain community eligibility. By doing so, schools will provide a healthy environment that is necessary for the achievement of all students, thus providing equal opportunity and health for all.

-Matt Reeves



4 thoughts on “Free Meals for Students

  1. rainde16

    Matt, I absolutely agree with you that many people especially in these areas do not have the necessities or even means to be self-sufficient. They do not always have the capability to have food for every meal or even enough food to satisfy his or her needs. The more schools that become eligible will provide more children with the necessities to live. That will thus increase output and the education of the youth which in the long run will really benefit our economy.

  2. nmlori16

    I agree, children and education are areas that need a good foundation, with hungry children, education will suffer. However, to play devils advocate and to ask the unfortunate question, where does the money to fund this program come from? Government spending, tax dollars or cuts in teachers wages, are usually controversial, its something we have to consider.

  3. jacobmedina2016

    This is definitely a very important and relevant topic. I am surprised by the lack of schools that adopt the program. It would seem like a no brainer to get the program if the school is eligible. The only problem I see with the program (which is not a reason to avoid implementing it) is that the free meals are automatically given to people who receive assistance while other people have to apply. I already imagine life is difficult for people immediately when they are no longer eligible for assistance. It would make life even more difficult if one’s child stopped receiving free meals at school. Perhaps policymakers should consider some layover time to allow children to continue receiving free meals for a period of time and make it less of a shock to lose government assistance. This should also help incentivize people to get off of government assistance while helping more children in need get free meals.

    1. Victor Matheson

      Nice post. It does make me wonder if there is something in the background making it difficult to get schools involved. Other the states not participating vs. those participating are an odd mix, much different than, for example, Medicare expansion states mentioned in another post here.


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