Online Program

Increasing food access in high-poverty school districts: Mississippi's implementation of the Community Eligibility Provision

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jessica Shappley, M.P.P.A., Hope Policy Institute, Jackson, MS
Corey Wiggins, MSPH, PhD, Hope Policy Institute, Jackson, MS

Access to healthy, nutritious food remains a challenge for many children living in high-poverty communities. Mississippi leads the nation in obesity (35.1%), food-insecurity (28.7%) and child poverty (34.7%). Increasing food access in high-poverty communities is key to supporting strategies to reduce obesity. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a universal meal program that provides free school meals, increases the availability of nutritious food in schools for children living in high-poverty communities. 


CEP, a provision of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, is an alternative approach to determining free and reduced price meals in schools in high-poverty areas based on household applications. School eligibility for CEP is determined based on if a minimum of 40% of students were eligible for free meals in the prior year to implementing CEP. All schools within a school district or selected schools within a school district may participate in the CEP.


Of the 1,058 schools in Mississippi, 539 schools are eligible to participate in CEP. During the 2014 – 2015 school year, 257 schools implemented CEP that serve over 135,000 students. However, 52% of the schools eligible to participate opted not to implement CEP. 


The CEP streamlines the process of enrolling children in the free school meal program. With an implementation rate of 48%, many schools are missing out on the policy opportunity to increase access to healthy, nutritious meals. Full implementation of CEP provides an opportunity to support strategies to reduce obesity in Mississippi’s high-poverty communities.

Learning Areas:

Public health administration or related administration
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Discuss how the Community Eligibilty Provision is a key policy opportunity to increasing food access in Mississippi's high-poverty communities.

Keyword(s): Public Policy, Child Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been a policy analyst for three years at a nonprofit organization that conducts independent research on public policy issues affecting working Mississippians. My primary work focuses on issues related to economic security, food access and health disparities.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.