To be eligible, local education authorities and/or schools must meet a minimum level of identified students for free meals; agree to serve free lunches and breakfasts to all students; and agree to cover with non-federal funds any costs of providing free meals to all students above amounts provided in federal assistance.
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) has a number of benefits to students and schools. It increases participation by children in the school meal programs. It will help schools reduce administrative costs related to collecting and processing applications and tracking students based on meal eligibility status. Schools will no longer have to collect payments or use swipe cards or other systems during the meal service. As a result of expanded student participation and reductions in administrative work, many Community Eligibility Option (CEO) schools have reported increased revenues, resulting in stronger school nutrition programs overall.
CEP reduces the district’s paperwork and school meal administrative costs, and streamlines its school meal service. CEP also will help students because families no longer have to complete meal applications and it can reduce economic eligibility stigma because all students are eating meals at no cost, regardless of their income status. Studies show that well-nourished children are able to focus in class and ultimately do better in school.
In short, CEP allows for a healthier student body and a healthier school meal budget.