Free Meals for All Students through the Community Eligibility Provision

Rachel Cooper

Kids and parents might be focused on summer fun right now, but school leaders are busy making plans for how to make next school year a success. That’s where the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) can help. Through CEP, high-need schools can provide all of their students with free meals—both breakfast and lunch—without having to collect school meal applications. To participate, school districts must notify the Texas Department of Agriculture of their intent by August 31st, 2016.

In the last two years nearly 1,700 schools in Texas have embraced CEP and report positive results:

More children get to eat – schools serve both free school lunches and breakfasts to all students. Numerous studies show that students with access to better nutrition tend to perform better academically.

Less paperwork – eligible schools no longer have to spend time chasing school meal applications, handling meal payment accounts, or tracking whether each meal served was paid, reduced-price, or free. Only high-need schools and districts are eligible for CEP.

Increased revenue – more children eating means economies of scale and more revenue that can be used to pay staff, buy equipment, or improve the quality of the food served. Many districts also see an increase in State Compensatory Education funding after switching to CEP.

The Department of Agriculture reimburses schools using CEP based on the percentage of students who are certified for free meals without an application because they are enrolled in other programs for low-income students (called “Identified Students”). CEP can be implemented for a single school, a group of schools, or districtwide if at least 40 percent of students are “Identified”. CPPP has created a technical worksheet to help districts to calculate their groupings. Contact CPPP if you would like help using this tool.

Overall, CEP can help schools to feed kids and ensure that they get the nutrition they need to learn; reduce school nutrition program administration costs; and increase revenue and save districts money. Parents love CEP too, since they don’t have to worry about their child’s account balance. You can find more information about CEP here.

Encourage your school district to implement CEP, and sign your school up by August 31st, 2016!

Health and Wellness Intern Julia Von Alexander contributed to this post.

Resources:
1. Community Eligibility: Feeding All Your Students for Free
2. Texas Department of Agriculture: CEP Application Instructions

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