August means that it’s back to school season in Nebraska! As students and teachers gear up for a full year of learning in the classroom, we at Voices are turning our attention to an important factor in academic success: proper nutrition.
Research tells us that hunger negatively impacts academic performance, and is linked to health-related absences, increased behavioral issues, and even suspensions. Fortunately, school meals through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs have long since proven to be effective and successful in keeping schools well fed and well read. Access to affordable, nutritious, and balanced meals is an important part of ensuring that children are learning in a healthy and supportive school environment.
Since 2014, an exciting option to maximize school meal delivery, the Community Eligibility Provision, has been available to certain schools and districts across the country. The provision allows schools in low-income areas with high-poverty student populations to serve universal lunch and breakfast to students at no cost and without application forms. In the last year, over 18,000 schools with a total enrollment of over 8.5 million children adopted CEP and the results are more than promising.
Administrators from CEP schools report increased meal participation, fewer behavioral incidents and visits to the school nurse, reduced administrative burdens, and increased program quality and viability. The success of CEP is well-known to schools and districts across the country, with 50% of all eligible schools adopting in the most recent school year. Nevertheless, Nebraska has reported one of the lowest take-ups of CEP, with only 8% (9 of 112) of eligible schools adopting CEP last year.
The good news is that there is still time for more students to benefit from CEP! Schools and districts can continue to adopt CEP through the school year, and the Nebraska Department of Education is offering technical assistance to administrators.