USDA To Expand Free School Meals
The federal food program proposes that the subsidies for school breakfast and lunch should be increased.
The Food and Nutrition Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed that schools can easily provide free meals to students.
Food insecurity has increased over the last few years due to accelerated food price inflation and the expiration of expanded child tax credits. Nearly 24 percent of households tend to experience food insecurity and nutritional deficiency these days.
Consequently, USDA proposes to expand access to Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). CEP enables schools and districts to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students without collecting household income applications.
Schools or districts must have a certain percentage of students, known as the identified student percentage (ISP), certified for free meals via programs like SNAP as of April 1 of the previous year to be eligible for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). When eligible, they get reimbursed by the USDA at the federal free rate, which is 1.6 times the ISP. Any costs beyond this reimbursement must be covered by non-federal sources, such as state funding or profits from individual food item sales.
Besides this, USDA also proposes to eliminate unpaid meal debt that students accumulate when they cannot pay at a certain point of sale. The main aim of these provisions is to streamline program efficiency and increase student reach.
The USDA’s proposed regulation aligns with President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget, which suggests a $15 million boost in CEP funding to extend services to an additional 9 million children. This increase in funding supports the White House’s goal to eliminate hunger in America by 2030.
These changes to nutrition programs will spark a debate among lawmakers. For instance, several Republicans have proposed cutting SNAP due to the ongoing conflict. Any modifications made to SNAP or other federal assistance programs will affect Millions of low-income households.
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Walsh Alexandra. “USDA Seeks to Expand Free School Meals”. The Regulatory Review, November 1, 2023,
Last Updated: September 20, 2021