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Exploratory Analysis on Effects of the Community Eligibility Provision on Learning and Behavioral Outcomes of Children in NC

This project is an exploratory analysis of the effects on learning and behavioral outcomes of children in North Carolina of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The CEP allows schools and districts in high-poverty areas to serve all students breakfast and lunch at no cost. While the CEP funds schools and districts, many eligible schools and districts do not participate. This weak participation has significant implications for students’ academic success.

The WFPC’s long-term aim is to pair the extensive datasets on school eligibility and performance from the North Carolina Educational Research Data Center (NCERDC) with data managed by Heartland Payment Systems that tracks daily participation and consumption patterns in school cafeterias. The WFPC hopes to combine the two datasets and utilize the following techniques: 1) a DID approach that mirrors previous statewide studies to evaluate how the rollout of the CEP-affected educational (math and reading scores) and behavioral (absences and suspensions) outcomes in participating school districts; and 2) secondary analysis that evaluates factors that contribute to the non-participation of schools and school districts in the CEP.

In the short term, the WFPC is pursuing two related paths that will reinforce each other and help pave the way for competitive applications for external audiences. The two trajectories include the following:

  • Lit Review. A Masters student is conducting a literature review and consult with external partners from the NC Parent Teacher Association and the NC Alliance for Health to help recommend research questions for the larger grant. This student will also work with school districts to gain permission to use relevant datasets (Heartland).
  • Dataset analysis. NCERDC’s dataset has student-level scores in math and reading, days absent, and suspensions with the attendant school-level data. Heartland manages extensive Point of Sale and Back of House datasets about nationwide participation and consumption patterns in school meal programs. The WFPC is engaging with Duke’s economics department to study the two datasets, conduct initial analysis, and assess the potential for integration. The student will need coding and economic expertise to run the quantitative analysis and determine possible merging with the NCERDC dataset. This exploratory work would help inform the proposals for the larger projects, which would attempt to access datasets from across the country.



February 1, 2024 -


World Food Policy Center

  • Norbert Wilson
  • Jack Daly
  • Noah Gibson
  • Aleksandra Zaborowska

Center for Child and Family Policy


Sanford School of Public Policy