The Education Dept. (DoEd) and the USDA are encouraging schools to open up the application process and adopt a new universal meal service option that will allow more students to be served free and reduced price breakfasts and lunches.
In a letter to school superintendents, DoEd Secy. Arne Duncan and USDA Secy. Tom Vilsack, highlighted the new Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which has been phased in by the USDA over the past several years. CEP was created through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and broadens the eligibility of the the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).
Qualifying high-poverty local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools can use CEP to offer breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students without requiring families to complete an annual household application, the letter said.
Eligible schools or LEAs that choose to participate in CEP receive the federal free reimbursement rate for up to 100% of meals served, depending on the school’s or LEA’s percentage of “identified students”—students who automatically qualify for free meals based on their family’s enrollment in other programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Head Start, the letter said.
If enrollment constitutes 40% or more identified students, they are eligible to participate in CEP, the letter said. A higher percentage of identified students results in additional federal funds, the letter said.
Eligibility may be determined on a district-wide basis, for a group of schools within an LEA, or for individual schools, the letter said.
DoEd has developed guidance (http://tinyurl.com/qbkfd3p) to help LEAs understand how they can successfully implement Title I requirements using NSLP data that incorporate CEP data. States may continue to use NSLP data for LEAs in which all or some schools participate in CEP. In addition, the guidance clarifies that states continue to have the discretion to use other methods for measuring poverty.