On October 14, 2021, An Act Promoting Student Nutrition, Chapter 62 of the Acts of 2021, was enacted to increase access to universal free school meals. Chapter 62 establishes two new sections within Chapter 71 of the General Laws: M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 72A and Section 72B. This memorandum will outline required new protocols related to Section 72A and the requirement to offer free breakfast and lunch through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Special Provisions.
The bill, signed into law, requires school districts or individual schools with an Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of 60% or higher to implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Individual schools or school districts who have met the minimum ISP threshold may be waived by the Department if it can be shown that implementation will result in financial hardship.
Individual schools with an Identified Student Percentage of 50% or higher are required to elect and implement CEP or Provision 2 to provide universal free school breakfast and lunch to all students. Implementation will not be required if the district school board votes, not later than June 1 of the first year of eligibility, to decline to participate in either the federal Community Eligibility Provision or Provision 2, or the Department determines that the school district or individual school no longer has the qualifying identified student percentage. This requirement can only be waived by the Department if an individual school is able to justify to the Department that implementation will result in financial hardship to the individual school.
School Nutrition Directors in districts where the 60% district threshold or the 50% school threshold has been determined must attend a training by the Department to learn about the Community Eligibility Provision and Provision 2 prior to a vote by the school committee. The Office of Food and Nutrition Programs plans to provide a variety of training opportunities to meet the requirements of the law and assist districts with technical assistance and support.
How often must a Local Education Agency (LEA) run direct certification?Per federal regulations 7 CFR 245.6, LEAs must conduct direct certification at least three times during the school year to ensure proper benefits are given in a timely manner. More frequent direct certification efforts are permissible and encouraged. Due to the efforts of schools, outreach partners, and the state, Massachusetts has among the highest direct certification matches in the country with over 95% of students certified to receive free meals coming from direct certification versus a traditional application. The efforts must be made at a minimum:
Local educational agencies and schools currently operating Provision 2 in a non-base year, or CEP, are required to conduct a direct certification at least once annually.
Failure to complete direct certification in the timeframe outlined by 7 CFR 245.6 will result in suspension of claim payments until the district comes into compliance.
The Office for Food and Nutrition Programs (FNP) strongly encourages LEAs to conduct monthly direct certification file uploads in order to capture changes in household circumstances as quickly as possible and reduce the instances of unpaid meal debt. In addition, identifying more students through direct certification can increase a school and LEA Identified Student Percentage resulting in higher federal reimbursements for those schools or LEAs who utilize CEP.
How should the LEA justify financial hardship for CEP implementation?USDA's CEP Monthly Federal Reimbursement Estimator is the recommended tool to prove financial viability for each school or school district. The request for consideration of financial hardship opt out is due to the SA no later than June 1st. FNP updates this resource annually to reflect current reimbursement rates. The tool can be found in the 'NSLP — Community Eligibility Provision Resources' section of the Document and Reference Library in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) Security Portal.
Is an LEA with only one school above 50% identified student percentage required to adopt CEP under An Act Promoting Student Nutrition?Yes, the law requires individual schools with an ISP of 50% or higher to adopt CEP unless they can justify financial hardship or hold a school board vote to waive this requirement. As a reminder, LEAs may group schools with lower ISPs with schools with higher ISPs in order to adopt CEP districtwide or to allow certain types of schools, such as all elementary schools, to utilize CEP.
Where can I find resources on CEP or Provision 2?FNP continues to hold annual trainings to review the process of applying and renewing for CEP and Provision 2. These trainings are now required for any LEA with at least one school with an ISP 50% or higher.
Additional information can be found on our website: Community Eligibility Provision Eligibility Requirements and Benefits.
USDA resources can be found here: Community Eligibility Provision Resource Center.
Project Bread's Child Nutrition Outreach Program is available to provide technical assistance and one-on-one support. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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