School Nutrition Programs

Community Eligibility Provision

What is Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a 4-year reimbursement option for eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools participating in both the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) that wish to offer free school meals to all children in high poverty schools without collecting household applications. It is intended to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty LEAs and schools.

To Participate

  1. LEAs and schools would be required to have an identified student percentage of at least 40 percent based on data as of April 1st of the prior school year. The 40 percent threshold to participate in CEP can be determined at the LEA level, by individual school or by grouping several schools together to get the needed percentage rate.
  2. LEAs agree to serve both breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students for up to four consecutive school years in qualifying and approved schools.
  3. CEP sites must also agree to cover any costs of providing meals above the amounts provided in federal assistance, with non-federal funds.
  4. Residential Child Care Institutions are not eligible to participate in CEP.

Identified Students are students who are eligible for free meals without the collection of applications, and include the following:

  • Directly certified on the basis of participation in the Food Stamps/SNAP program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Directly certified foster child
  • Homeless, runaway, or migrant youth (certified by coordinator listing)
  • Head Start (certified by the Head Start coordinator listing)

SFAs will be reimbursed at a federal free category rate using the ratio of Identified Students to enrolled students (who have access to one meal service daily), multiplied by the USDA multiplier factor (Current USDA Multiplier Factor is 1.6). The multiplier factor is intended to estimate the number of free and reduced price meals that would have been served if applications were collected. The difference between the free claiming percentage and 100 percent represents the paid claiming percentage. There are no reduced price meals in CEP.

Example of determining free and paid claiming percentages:

  • Number of Identified Students as of April 1: 143
  • Enrollment as of April 1: 236
    • 143 Identified Students divided by 236 Total Enrollment = 0.6059322
    • 0.6059322 x 1.6 (Current USDA Claiming Factor) = 0.9694915
    • 96.9491% of all meals served are reimbursed at the FREE rate
    • 100% minus 96.9491% equals 3.0509%. Therefore, 3.0509% of all meals served are reimbursed at the PAID rate.
  • When considering whether to participate in community eligibility, LEAs and schools should consider the meal participation level, the anticipated level of Federal reimbursement, and the non-Federal resources available. To assist in this process, the USDA has provided the following tool:

To Apply

CEP Materials

Benefits of CEP

  • Lunches and breakfast are served free to all students in participating schools
  • No household applications for free and reduced price meals are collected
  • No verification of free and reduced applications is required
  • Potential for increased meal participation rates, especially breakfast
  • Simplifies the counting and claiming process by not having to track free, reduced and paid students

USDA Information

Policy Memo SP23-2011 Community Eligibility Option: Guidance and Procedures for Selection of States for School Year 2011-2012

Policy Memo SP12 -2012 Community Eligibility Option: Guidance and Procedures for Selection of States for School Year 2012-2013

Policy Memo SP24-2012 Interim Review Guidance for States with Local Educational Agencies Electing the Community Eligibility Option

Policy Memo SP15-2013 Community Eligibility Option: Guidance and Procedures for Selection of States for School Year 2013-2014

Policy Memo SP12-2014 Community Eligibility Provision: Department of Education Title I Guidance

Proposed Rule: National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Eliminating Applications Through Community Eligibility as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

Title I and Other Funding Programs

While CEP removes the need for free and reduced meal paper applications there may still be a need to collect household socio-economic data for other programs such as Title 1 and E-Rate. The school meal program applications are not to be distributed in schools participating in CEP. An alternative household income survey is available through the Title I program that can be used for this purpose. All costs associated with distributing, collecting and reviewing these household income forms must be paid for with funds outside of the nonprofit school food service account.

The E-Rate letter explains the process for schools to determine the data to use in applying for discounts on services received under the E-Rate Program.

This Title I letter describes the Title I money allocation Process for LEAs opting CEP. See also SP15-2013 above.