WASHINGTON, May 4, 2012 – Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon announced today that the District of Columbia, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia were selected to use an innovative option to reduce administrative paperwork and costs, while making it easier for eligible children in low-income communities to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Community eligibility alleviates the burden on families by eliminating household applications, while helping schools reduce costs associated with collecting and processing those applications.
“Ensuring all school children have access to healthy, well-balanced meals is critical to their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and to reach their fullest potential,” said Kevin Concannon, Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.“
The Community Eligibility Option offers a boost to our children’s nutrition in communities where need is greatest. And it streamlines administration and increases integrity by relying on data from other means-tested program certifications.” The Community Eligibility Option provides schools in high-poverty areas a means of sharing with USDA the cost of providing free breakfast and lunch to all students without applications. USDA’s contribution is based primarily on the percentage of households in the community that participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The process builds on the highly effective direct certification system, which uses SNAP data to enroll low-income children in free meals, to eliminate entirely the cost and burden to schools of collecting and processing applications.
This option is among the reforms mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, signed by President Obama on Dec. 13, 2010. The Act phases in the streamlined process over three years. USDA selected Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan as the first states to participate in the Option during School Year 2011-12. All states were encouraged to apply for the Option for School Year 2012-13. Based on a review of the applications received, USDA selected the District of Columbia, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia for School Year 2012-13. The Option will be offered to schools in all states beginning School Year 2014-15.
Reducing childhood obesity and improving the nutrition of all Americans are vital to achieve a healthy future for America. That’s why the Obama administration and USDA are committed to promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles and to ensuring that all Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let’s Move! initiative and signed by President Barack Obama, marked a great win for the nearly 32 million school children who participate in the National School Lunch and the 12 million school children who participate in the School Breakfast programs each school day. USDA is working to implement historic reforms mandated by the act that will mark the most comprehensive change to food in schools in more than a generation. These reforms include updated nutrition standards for school meals to increase fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy; science-based standards for all foods and beverages sold on the school campus; performance-based funding increases for schools – the first real increase in 30 years; and training and technical assistance to help schools meet improved standards.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including school meals programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger.