Nearly 3,500 high-poverty Texas schools now have an opportunity to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students without having to collect cumbersome school meal applications thanks to a new federal option called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). But school districts need to act fast. The deadline for schools to opt in is August 31.
Under this new option, when 40 percent or more of the student body is eligible for free school meals via other poverty programs, the entire school becomes eligible for free meals. CEP can be implemented for a single school, a group of schools, or districtwide as long as the total rate for the group is 40 percent or higher.
All schools electing to use CEP no longer have to document which students received a meal and whether they qualified for free, reduced, or paid meals for federal reimbursement purposes. These schools will simply serve all students for free and report the total number of meals served each day.
Community Eligibility is already working in about a dozen other states. It is an important tool in reducing childhood food insecurity and in increasing the efficiency of school nutrition programs in our highest needs schools. School districts using CEP have increased meal program participation, brought staff costs down, eliminated bad debt from unpaid meal fees, and cut down on administrative costs.
Please consider sharing this information with your local school district! If you need more information about how your school can opt in, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.