The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide an alternative to household eligibility applications for free and reduced price meal eligibility in high poverty local educational agencies (LEAs). This meal counting and claiming alternative is referred to as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and is available to all LEAs that have eligible sites.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Office for Food and Nutrition Programs (FNP) is required to collect information on the number of Identified Students that are either directly certified or categorically eligible for free school meals related to enrollment (Identified Student Percentage, ISP). A school or group of schools are eligible for CEP if this number is at least 40 percent of enrollment. [7 CFR 245.9(f)(6)(i)].
LEAs eligible for CEP and not yet participating are required to apply for SY 2023-2024. The Governor's FY 24 supplemental budget proposal to continue statewide universal school meals at no cost for all students includes language requiring all eligible CEP schools to adopt CEP to maximize federal funding and promote sustainability for this important program. While this proposal has not yet passed, DESE is requiring eligible schools to submit CEP application documents for validation within the CEP application timeframe. In the event there is significant changes to statewide universal free school meals, LEAs can withdraw from the CEP application process if funding from the Commonwealth is discontinued.
In a prior legislative action, 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. The law requires school districts or individual schools with an Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of 60% or higher to implement the CEP or Provision 2 of the NSLP and School Breakfast Program (SBP). 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.
Under Sections 11(a)(1)(F)(iii)(I) and 11(a)(1)(F)(v)(I) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. 1759a, LEAs must calculate the CEP identified student percentage (ISP) using data as of April 1.
Please submit this information through the DESE Security Portal "CEP Identified Student Percentage (APR Report)", located in the Compliance Packet, on or before April 15, 2023 [7 CFR 245.9(f)(5)(i)-(iii)]. Step by step guidance for completing the April Report can be found at the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition: CEP Series: Completing the April Report-NBCS (panopto.com).
Under Section 11(a)(1)(F)(x)(IV) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. 1759a, LEAs must submit to the State agency lists of schools that:
Regulations at 7 CFR 245.9(f)(5) also require that LEAs submit the required lists to the State agency annually by April 15. LEAs required to complete the April Report must provide ISPs for all schools in the LEA.
Participating LEAs and schools with ISPs of at least 30 percent but less than 40 percent, as of April 1 in Year 4 of the 4-year cycle, may continue participating in CEP for one grace year (a fifth year). Reimbursement for schools in a grace year is based on the ISP as of April 1 in year 4 of the current 4-year cycle. LEAs or schools that reach the required 40 percent threshold as of April 1 of the grace year would be eligible to begin a new 4-year cycle in the following school year. LEAs or schools that do not meet the threshold as of April 1 of the grace year would be required to return to standard counting and claiming or elect another special Provision option, and must collect school meal applications, in the following school year.
FNS regulations further require at 7 CFR 245.9(f)(3)(i) and 7 CFR 245.9(f)(4)(i) that LEAs intending to elect CEP or conduct a grace year in the following year must submit to the State agency counts of identified and enrolled students as of April 1 of the prior school year (SY).
Section 11(a)(1)(F)(x)(I) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 U.S.C. 1759a, requires that LEAs that intend to elect CEP in the following school year notify the State agency and submit ISP documentation by June 30. This requirement is codified in FNS regulations at 7 CFR 245.9(f)(4)(i).
In addition to the Federally required CEP deadlines, An Act Promoting Student Nutrition requires School Boards in communities with schools having ISPs of 50% or higher wishing to decline CEP or Provision 2 must do so by June 1st. Keep in mind the pending budget proposal for FY 2024 may nullify this requirement.
For further guidance, please refer to the Community Eligibility Provision sections of the Document and Reference Library of the DESE Security Portal or call 781-338-6480 and ask to speak with your DESE Consultant in the School Nutrition Programs Section. Recorded trainings on the Community Eligibility Provision and Provision 2 can be found at the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs Continuation Series: N&B Continuation Series - John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition (johnstalkerinstitute.org).
Any further questions can be addressed to email@example.com or 781-338-6480.
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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
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