Millions more students eligible for free school meals
Driving the news: The expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) will make some 3,000 additional school districts serving more than 5 million students eligible for meals at no cost.
- Schools where 25% of families receive income-based federal assistance programs, like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), will qualify. The qualifying threshold was previously 40%.
What they're saying: "Increasing access to free, healthy school breakfast and lunch will decrease childhood hunger, improve child health and student readiness, and put our nation on the path to better nutrition and wellness," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
- Stacy Dean, USDA deputy under secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, said in a statement that while "there is still more work ahead to ensure every K-12 student in the nation can access healthy school meals at no cost, this is a significant step on the pathway towards that goal."
Flashback: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government expanded a program in March 2020 that covered the cost of breakfast and lunch for low-income students to include all pupils.
- The expanded benefits expired in June 2022.
Go deeper: SNAP combats racial divides, study finds