By Jeanie Donovan
Nearly 3,500 high poverty Texas schools now have an opportunity to provide free meals–breakfast and lunch–to all students without having to collect school meal applications through a new federal option called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). The Texas Department of Agriculture published a full list of eligible schools on its website.
The 3459 Texas school sites were deemed eligible to use CEP based on the percentage of their enrolled students that already automatically qualify for free school meals. In each of the 3459 schools, 40 percent or more of the student body is automatically eligible for school meals via their household’s participation in other state or federal assistance programs.
In 1073 of the schools on the list, over 62.5 percent of the student body is automatically eligible for free schools meals. For these schools, using CEP means that all school meals served will be reimbursed by the federal government at the free rate. Schools can receive the maximum federal reimbursement for each meal served, regardless of the household income of each individual student who receives a meal.
All schools electing to use CEP no longer have to document which students received a meal and whether they qualified for free, reduced, or paid meals for federal reimbursement purposes. These schools will simply serve all students for free and report the total number of meals served each day. Students will no longer have to be distinguished by the amount of money that their parents make when going through the lunch line.
CEP has already been successfully implemented in eleven other states. It is an important tool in reducing childhood food insecurity and in increasing the efficiency of school nutrition programs in our highest needs schools. Find more information about CEP in Texas by reviewing our policy page and on the Texas Department of Agriculture’s new Community Eligibility Provision webpage.