This summer schools across the country will be able to take advantage of an important tool that helps schools nation wide feed more children healthy school meals. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) will take effect this July 1 and will not only help students access healthy meals, but will also cut down on the paper work and administrative costs incurred by schools.

Although a handful of states were able to implement CEP in prior school years, earlier this year USDA issued guidance to all states regarding the provision that was originally included in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

CEP allows schools that have at least 40 percent of their students qualifying for free meals to serve free meals to all students with out having to collect applications from all students. Schools will need to serve both breakfast and lunch to students in order to qualify.

Schools will calculate their free school meal reimbursement rates through programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. CEP will help schools increase participation in the child nutrition programs by offering breakfast and lunch free to all students with out added paperwork.

The first step in schools taking advantage of CEP occurred on May 1st as states needed to publish a lists of schools that are eligible or near eligible for the provision. To see a list of schools in your state that have been identified, click hereThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued guidance and a memo regarding frequently asked questions to help inform schools, so that schools are prepared to implement the provision starting in July. There also is guidance to help schools that rely on school lunch data for Title I programs. This guidance illustrated how the process for data collection for the two programs can work together and make data collection less burdensome for schools.

School meals across the country continue to be improved upon and are healthier thanks to other provisions that were included in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. It is important for parents and advocates across the country to encourage their schools to take advantage of CEP as another tool in the fight against child hunger and obesity, so that all eligible children get access to healthy school breakfasts and lunches. Many schools across the country are gearing up to take advantage of this provision and we urge you to reach out to your local school officials to make sure that they are prepared to implement Community Eligibility this coming school year.

Serving healthy school meals to all children helps kids focus on school rather than on their stomachs and improves children’s their learning abilities. For schools that are interested in learning more about the economic advantages of serving school breakfast (and other federal child nutrition programs) in addition to school lunch can use the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry School Calculator.

With children spending a significant amount of their lives in schools, it is important to ensure that all children have access to healthy meals so that they can be ready to learn and prepare themselves for a healthy adulthood.