Unemployment and increased use of federal benefit programs due to COVID-19 means that more schools are now eligible to use CEP!

What is CEP?

  • The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows schools to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students – essentially becoming Hunger-Free Schools.
  • More than 106,000 students in Maryland attend one of 242 Hunger-Free Schools; hundreds more are CEP-eligible, but not yet participating.

What are the benefits of CEP?

  • All students have universal access to school breakfast and lunch.
  • No unpaid school meal debt or school lunch shaming.
  • No need to collect school meal benefit applications.
  • Lower rates of food insecurity for students and their families. (Source)
  • Improved student attendance.

What does COVID-19 have to do with CEP?

  • Because of COVID-19, CEP will be financially viable for many more schools this year.
  • Students enrolled in TANF/TCA and  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are automatically certified for free school meals and are counted in their school’s “Identified Student Percentage,” or ISP.
  • A school, or group of schools, must have an ISP over 40% to participate in CEP.
  • SNAP applications in Maryland quadrupled in just the first month of the pandemic.
  • The more students enrolled in SNAP, the higher the school’s Identified Student Percentage (ISP).

Why is ISP so important?

  • In CEP schools, federal reimbursement for meals served is based on the ISP multiplied by 1.6.
  • The higher the ISP, the more federal reimbursement schools receive.
  • A school with an ISP of 63% or above receives the maximum federal reimbursement for all meals served.

Why do schools need to consider CEP now?

  • The deadline to elect CEP has been extended to August 31, 2020.
  • This year, schools can use post-pandemic ISP data from April, May, and June 2020 to set their poverty rate.
  • Schools that elect CEP now can lock-in their poverty rate (ISP) for four years.

What next?

  • Contact your school district’s Food and Nutrition Services Department for more information about which schools are being considered for CEP in the coming 20-21 SY.

No Kid Hungry’s CEP Advocacy in Baltimore County Public Schools