New Universal Meal Service Option Now Available for High-Poverty School Districts

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) nationwide include a new universal meal service option, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which has been phased in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over the past several years. CEP was created through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and allows qualifying high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students without requiring families to complete an annual household application. 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated in a joint letter, “Qualifying schools and districts — for which 40 percent or more of families get nutrition assistance or participate in other programs — are eligible for a reimbursement rate of up to 100 percent of meals. The program was set up under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, and already about 14,000 schools are participating, accounting for six million students.”

Applications are due to the State-level agency administering the Federal school meal programs by August 31, 2015, to ensure implementation of CEP for the 2015-2016 school year. LEAs that need more time to transition to CEP may contact their State agency to find out if it will accept a mid-year application as permitted by USDA.

In addition, resources are available on Title I, as well as the Federal e-rate program, State and local funding issues, and strategies for successful implementation of CEP at The State educational agency and State Child Nutrition Offices are also good resources for specific CEP eligibility questions. 

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