Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee will participate in the initial year of an innovative universal free meal service option that makes it easier for low-income children to receive meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

The “Community Eligibility Option” will allow schools in high-poverty areas to eliminate the use of applications and provide free breakfast and lunch to all students for the next four years.

Under this option, schools use preexisting data to determine the amount of reimbursement they can claim from USDA. The determination is primarily based on the percentage of households in that community who are already participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. Schools that use this option agree to provide meals to all children free of charge, and USDA reimburses them for the appropriate amount based on this preexisting data. Under this option, schools will still be responsible for paying the remaining difference between the federal reimbursement amount and the total cost to operate the program.

School districts containing eligible schools must notify the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Division of School and Community Nutrition of their intent to participate in the 2011-12 school year by July 29.

In Kentucky, districts with one or more schools that have 40 percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals qualify for participation in the program. Of the state’s 174 school districts, 102 qualify.

The 102 districts in Kentucky that qualify for the “Community Eligibility Option” are:
Ashland Independent
Ballard County
Bath County
Bell County
Bellevue Independent
Bourbon County
Breathitt County
Bullitt County
Caldwell County
Calloway County
Campbell County
Campbellsville Independent
Carroll County
Carter County
Christian County
Clark County
Clay County
Clinton County
Covington Independent
Crittenden County
Cumberland County
Danville Independent
Edmonson County
Elliott County
Erlanger-Elsmere Independent
Estill County
Fayette County
Fleming County
Floyd County
Frankfort Independent
Fulton County
Fulton Independent
Garrard County
Glasgow Independent
Grant County
Graves County
Grayson County
Greenup County
Hardin County
Harlan County
Harrison County
Hart County
Hazard Independent
Henderson County
Hopkins County
Jackson County
Jefferson County
Jenkins Independent
Johnson County
Kenton County
Knott County
Knox County
LaRue County
Laurel County
Lawrence County
Lee County
Leslie County
Letcher County
Lewis County
Lincoln County
Madison County
Magoffin County
Marion County
Martin County
Mayfield Independent
McCracken County
McCreary County
McLean County
Meade County
Menifee County
Mercer County
Middlesboro Independent
Monroe County
Montgomery County
Monticello Independent
Muhlenberg County
Murray Independent
Nelson County
Newport Independent
Nicholas County
Ohio County
Owensboro Independent
Owsley County
Paducah Independent
Paris Independent
Pendleton County
Perry County
Pike County
Powell County
Pulaski County
Rockcastle County
Rowan County
Russell County
Russellville Independent
Trigg County
Union County
Warren County
Wayne County
Webster County
Whitley County
Wolfe County
Woodford County

The Community Eligibility Option is among the early reforms enacted as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 13, 2010. The act requires the Community Eligibility Option to be phased in over three years and authorizes USDA to select up to three states to participate in the option in the 2011-12 school year. The option will be offered to additional states in successive years and will be available to all states beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.