CEP: A Pathway to Hunger-Free Schools

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

This upcoming school year, high poverty schools across Virginia have an opportunity to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students by utilizing an exciting new option known as the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP. The state Department of Education released a list of schools that qualify for the option late this spring and school administrators have been evaluating the new tool over the summer.

So how does CEP work? When 40 percent or more students at a school are automatically eligible for free meals through their participation in other anti-poverty programs, the school can serve meals to the entire student body free of charge. CEP can be implemented for a single school, a group of schools, or district wide, but the share of qualifying students for either approach must be 40 percent or higher.

CEP significantly streamlines school meal service operations. Where the option is utilized, food and nutrition staff will no longer be required to document who received a meal and what rate they paid for federal reimbursement purposes. They will simply serve all students and report the number of meals served each day.

CEP also reduces the stigma associated with free school meals, which means that more students from low income homes are likely to eat. The option can help parents with limited resources make their dollars stretch by offering kids two nutrient-dense meals each school day.

Eating nutritious meals at school helps students succeed in the classroom. So CEP – on top of all else – promotes academic achievement. At this point, Richmond city public schools have decided to implement CEP this upcoming school year and we will soon know which other schools elect to follow suit. The deadline for opting-in is August 31. To learn more about CEP, please visit http://www.vplc.org/virginia-hunger-solutions/community-eligibility.

Image courtesy: www.hungertaskforce.org

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