On September 26, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it is expanding the availability of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This new ruling provides an additional 3,000 school districts in high-need areas the opportunity to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost.
The new ruling will be effective as of October 26, 2023, lowering the eligibility threshold from 40 percent to 25 percent and increasing millions of students’ access to healthy school meals. Newly eligible schools that want to participate this school year are encouraged to work with their state agency to submit a waiver to the USDA.
What is CEP?
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) has been an instrumental tool in fighting child hunger. CEP allows the nation’s high-need schools to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students, regardless of their families’ income levels. Since the program’s creation in 2011, CEP has helped more than 33,000 schools with their school meal operations and served more than 16 million children.
CEP provides many benefits, including:
- Eliminating school meal debt
- Increasing food and nutrition security
- Reducing the social stigma for students who eat for free or at reduced prices
- Lowering food costs for families
- Increasing student participation in school breakfast and lunch programs
- Simplifying school meal program operations by not requiring household applications
By allowing more schools to participate in the CEP program, the Biden administration will provide schools the flexibility to offer free schools meals and ensure students have the healthy food they need to succeed.
Florida Impact applauds the Biden administration for strengthening CEP and expanding children’s access to free school meals!
When it comes to the school environment, nutritious food is just as essential for students as books and teachers. Expanding community eligibility improves the lives and well-being of millions of children. Join us in celebrating this latest ruling and help us continue to champion the expansion of CEP so more children in need can access healthy school meals.
For more information and materials on CEP, visit Florida Impact’s CEP Toolkit page here!