Conclusion 4-4: To develop accurate claiming percentages for use in implementing the AEO, it will be necessary to estimate not only the distribution of eligible students across the free, reduced-price, and full-price categories but also their expected participation rates with all meals being served free of charge.

As documented in this chapter, the panel’s analyses demonstrate that the ACS eligibility estimates, on average, are substantially and systematically different from administrative estimates for high and very high FRPL districts. For all but the smallest districts, however, reimbursements based on ACS estimates might be equally stable over time and often more so than reimbursements based on administrative estimates, and this feature of the AEO might be attractive to districts along with its other benefits. Although a one-size-fits-all approach for benchmarking ACS estimates to administrative estimates is not feasible at present, a tailored approach to using ACS estimates could possibly allow more districts to offer free meals to all students under the AEO. In the next chapter, we propose an approach that FNS might consider for implementing the AEO and that some districts might find attractive if they wished to adopt the AEO in all or some of their schools.

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