CEP enhances existing school lunch and breakfast programs

Congress did the right thing when it enacted the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in 2010 to help alleviate hunger among our nation’s most vulnerable children. With the Aug. 31 deadline approaching for high-poverty schools to decide if they want to participate in the CEP, it’s important that policy makers, school administrators, parents and others know what a smart opportunity the CEP is and know as well that a recent op-ed in The Hill substitutes fiction for fact (“Is free school lunch the next great American entitlement program?” July 1) .

The CEP increases participation in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs at high-poverty schools by eliminating the administrative burden of traditional paper applications and offering meals to all students at no charge. It is an improved version of an earlier local option (Provision 2) to streamline paperwork in poor schools.  The CEP doesn’t just help reduce red tape; it allows school nutrition staff to focus on implementing innovative models, such as breakfast in the classroom, that have been proven to boost participation and improve learning and health. 

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The aforementioned op-ed, purporting to cite our organization’s report, badly misrepresented the data when it said the number of children participating in the school lunch program “nearly doubled in three years.” Even the most cursory reading of the report shows that the near doubling reflected the number of children enrolled in the sub-group of high-poverty schools participating in the CEP in three states. Lunch participation in these schools rose by 13 percent over two years.

That is what Congress intended: to push up participation in both breakfast and lunch in high-poverty schools by reducing paperwork and reducing stigma. It’s not a new “entitlement.” It takes a seven-decade-old entitlement program and makes it more effective.

The op-ed also attacks the new, healthier nutrition standards in schools, relying on unreliable claims about schools struggling to comply. The reality is 95 percent of all school districts nationwide have implemented the new standards. In addition, a majority — 72 percent — of parents support the new standards, according to a poll released by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.

The bottom line is that community eligibility and new nutrition standards strengthen school nutrition programs, as Congress intended. This results in healthier budgets and healthier, hunger-free students who, as a result, are better able to learn.

Let’s keep moving in the right direction by making good school nutrition programs even better.

From James Weill, president, Food Research and Action Center, Washington, D.C.


Vaccination law a slippery slope

Parents in California are now required to get their children vaccinated if they want them to go to public school. Parents should probably get their children vaccinated, but I don’t think that it should be mandatory. If the government has the right to require children to get shots today, it could have the power to require adults to get shots tomorrow. Should adults be required to get Ebola, small pox and flu shots? 

Some state governments can require blood tests for people who are accused, but not convicted, of drunk driving. Some require DNA tests for people accused or convicted of certain crimes. And of course some states have the right to strap someone down, stick a needle in their arm and kill them. 

I don’t think that any government should have the right, or the power, to stick a needle in someone’s arm.

From Chuck Mann, Greensboro, N.C.