Giving Compass' Take:

• Matt Barnum reports that research suggests that free lunch for all - entire schools in poor areas receive free lunch - has widespread benefits including reduced suspensions. 

• How can community eligibility be expanded to make a bigger impact? What role can funders play in increasing free lunch for all programs? 

• Learn about the problem of suspensions nationwide

Allowing an entire school to eat for free, instead of restricting free lunch to students whose families fill out forms, can reduce the number of students who get suspended multiple times, according to a new study.

It’s the latest evidence that universal meal programs, which have also been linked to higher test scores and better health in other research, help students.

“There are many potential benefits to providing universal free meals in high-poverty schools, including achievement impacts … and of course whatever reduction in kids going hungry comes with it,” said Nora Gordon of Georgetown University, who wrote the paper along with Krista Ruffini at the University of California at Berkeley.

The study, which was released by the National Bureau of Economic Research and has not been formally peer-reviewed, focuses on the federal free lunch program’s “community eligibility” initiative, which allowed schools where many students qualified for free or reduced price lunch to provide the free meal to all students. This was designed to reduce the stigma of receiving the meals among low-income students, streamline paperwork, and ensure no student went hungry.

The study estimates that in elementary school, the chances of being suspended multiple times fell by about a third of a percentage point in elementary school and half a percentage point in middle school.

Read the full article about free lunch by Matt Barnum at Chalkbeat.