No child in Montana should go hungry.
It’s an ambitious goal that our schools can help achieve. Starting next school year, eligible schools in Montana can participate in a new school meals option called the Community Eligibility Provision.
CEP helps schools provide breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of income. Eligible schools will receive up to 100 percent reimbursement from the USDA for universal breakfast and lunch. CEP promotes a healthier student body, as well as a healthier school meal budget. Simply put, CEP means more kids get the nutrition they need to focus on their schoolwork instead of an empty stomach.
Eating for success
The importance of ensuring our children eat breakfast cannot be overstated. Studies show that offering an alternative model, like breakfast-after-the-bell, increases breakfast participation rates for low-income children significantly. Additionally, students with reliable access to better nutrition tend to miss less school, perform better academically, and have higher graduation rates. Schools that implement universal breakfast-after-the-bell programs improve students’ performance on standardized math tests by 17.5 percent. Signing up for CEP will help Montana schools better prepare our children for academic success now, as well as a successful career in the future.
In schools that participated in CEP, lunch participation increased by 13 percent and breakfast participation increased by 25 percent. Districts reported positive feedback from parents and school staff as well as an increased ability to feed more children. One-hundred percent of participating districts recommend CEP.
Investing in children
Eligible schools in Montana will benefit from community eligibility. More children will start their school days with a healthy meal and will be ready to learn and grow into the leaders of tomorrow. That’s why my husband, Gov. Steve Bullock, Superintendent Denise Juneau, Lt. Gov. Angela McLean, and I recently sent a letter to eligible schools asking them to adopt CEP.
Feeding hungry children is one of the best investments we can make. Participation of eligible schools in CEP across Montana is instrumental in our fight to end childhood hunger. I encourage schools and districts to return their intent forms to the Office of Public Instruction as soon as possible, before the Aug. 31 deadline. Schools or districts with questions about CEP can call the Office of Public Instruction at 406-444-2501.