Title slide that reads: "Back-to-School Nutrition Checklist"

We all know that FOOD is the most important school supply.

That’s why we’ve prepared a back-to-school nutrition checklist to help you make sure your students are healthy, happy, and engaged with learning from day one this 2023-24 school year.

Maximize Participation with Breakfast After the Bell (Especially in CEP Schools!)

It’s thrilling to see how many schools and districts are planning to participate in CEP (or the Community Eligibility Program) this year, offering nutritious school meals to all families at no cost.

But CEP schools are only at their most effective when student participation meals is HIGH!

Innovative Breakfast After the Bell methods — Breakfast in the Classroom, Second Chance Breakfast, and Grab and Go Breakfast — are proven to increase participation in school breakfast.

Is your school or district using these methods to maximize participation?

WHY Breakfast After the Bell?

  • Proven to feed more kids
  • Maximize federal reimbursement dollars
  • Fight chronic absenteeism
  • Stronger social-emotional atmosphere
  • Better academic outcomes

Next Steps


Take Action for School Meals for All

We believe that all students in North Carolina deserve access to healthy school meals at no cost to their families.
Programs like CEP are important pieces of the puzzle, but we still have work to do in making sure ALL students get the benefits of school meals for all at no cost to families. Because make no mistake: When healthy school meals are available at no cost to families, ALL students benefit from the improved social-emotional atmosphere, the attentive classrooms, the reduced stigma, and the economic benefits to districts.
On behalf of the School Meals for All NC coalition, we hope you will take action to express your support for putting kids first in NC.

Notify Families About Reduced-Price Meals Changes

With North Carolina lawmakers still working on the state budget, students will return to classrooms without the school lunch reduced-price copay, which made a huge impact last school year on families in need.

Families in non-CEP schools that qualify for reduced-price meals need to be informed that they will have to pay $0.40 for school lunch for the first time in years. After multiple years of free school meals at the start of the pandemic and the reduced-price lunch copay last school year, this might be confusing or frustrating for many families. Communicating the situation in advance will be an important step.

The copay for breakfast will continue to be covered by the state this school year, as these funds are authorized as recurring state funds.

The reduced-price lunch copay was a huge source of support for students last school year. Hopefully, it will be included again in this year’s final budget. (The Department of Public Instruction’s Office of School Nutrition has stated it will work quickly to allocate funds to each School Food Authority if and when they become available again for the lunch copay.)

But making it a recurring part of the budget — just like the school breakfast reduced-price copay currently — is a crucial step, and would avoid interruptions like this one in the future. The School Meals for All NC coalition has easy ways to contact your state representatives about this issue. Find them HERE.

Notify Families About New CEP Policies

The Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, make school meals available at no cost to families in an entire school or district. It is a great tool for both families and schools. But the policy only makes financial sense for a district if student participation is high, bringing in federal reimbursement dollars.

And participation can only be high if families know about it!

If your school or district is using CEP, convene your school nutrition, public information, and admin teams to make sure back-to-school messaging lets families know that meals are free for all students, especially if the CEP program is new.

Families often appreciate schools going the extra mile to provide resources such as school meals for all. It strengthens the role of schools in their communities. School meals available at no cost to families also offers a chance for students who haven’t eaten school meals in the past to try them for the first time, potentially becoming regular “customers.”

Check out some examples from NC districts that are already getting to word out:

Dig Into These Great Back-to-School Toolkits

The above items are highlights specific to the school year 2023-24, but there’s no end to the ways you can make sure your school nutrition program is primed for a great school year.

Check out these resources from the Carolina Hunger Initiative, No Kid Hungry NC, and our state and national partners for more ways to get the most out of food, the most important school supply!