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.