Md. schools might serve free meals to all under new pilot

The Maryland State Department of Education’s School and Community Nutrition Programs Branch has been selected by the US Department of Agriculture to participate in a Community Eligibility Option pilot for the 2013-14 school year.

The Community Eligibility Option (CEO) provides an alternative to household applications for free and reduced-price meals in high-poverty areas. The option, included as part of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, is being phased in over three years. Maryland is one of four states to be selected to participate for the coming school year.

More information is available in a policy memo with FAQs from the USDA, (PDF file). In addition, free webinars and other information are available from the Food Resource and Action Center, here.

Under the program, LEAs in Maryland will now be able to serve free meals—the program requires that both breakfast and lunch be served—to all students, provided their schools, groups of schools, or entire LEAs qualify for this federal program.

In addition, districts will see a dramatic reduction of paperwork if they qualify for the CEO. Since all students at a qualified school will receive free meals, verification for each household in the district is unnecessary.

Schools that are unable to use the CEO will still have to verify free and reduced-price meal participation.

The program is already running in a handful of states, including Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan, as well as in the District of Columbia.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.