Community Eligibility Provision

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 also will help students because families no longer have to complete meal applications and it can reduce stigma because all students are eating meals at no cost, regardless of their income status community eligibility reduces the district’s paperwork and school meal administrative costs, and streamlines its school meal service. 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.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Memos and Resources

Community Eligibility Option: Guidance and Procedures for Selection of States for School Year 2012-2013 (SP 12-2013)

Community Eligibility Option: Guidance and Process for Selection of States for School Year 2011-2012 (SP 23-2011)

Community Eligibility Option fact sheet

The Community Eligibility Option introductory webinar for the 2012-2013 school year (PowerPoint)

Community Eligibility Option Monthly Federal Reimbursement Estimator (Excel file)

Community Eligibility – Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Website

Community Eligibility - Making High-Poverty Schools Hunger Free school board presentation (PowerPoint)

Community Eligibility: An Amazing New Opportunity

Making the Case for Community Eligibility: Presenting the Benefits for Your District

FRAC/School Nutrition Foundation webinar – Making Universal Meals a Reality through the Community Eligibility Option (School Nutrition Association website)

CEP Resources

Federal Communications Commission guidance document on E-Rate and Community Eligibility

U.S. Department of Education policy letter about Title 1 and the Community Eligibility Option

U.S. Department of Education Fiscal and Accountability Guidance Policy Letter on Title I and the USDA Community Eligibility Option

Community Eligibility Option (No Kid Hungry Share Our Strength-Center for Best Practices website

Key Steps to Improve Access to Free and Reduced-Price School Meals (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website)

West Virginia press release (West Virginia Department of Education website)

Boston Globe press release (Boston Globe website)

Atlanta TV video press release