Community Eligibility Provision

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an alternative approach for offering school meals to local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools in low income areas, instead of collecting individual applications for free and reduced price meals.

The CEP allows schools that predominantly serve low-income children to offer free, nutritious school meals to all students through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The CEP uses information from other programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Temporary Assistance Program for Needy Families (TANF) instead of traditional paper applications.


The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 provides an alternative to household applications in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

The intent of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools and to eliminate the administrative burden of collecting household applications.

The CEP was phased in over a period of three years in a limited number of States and will be available nationwide beginning July 1, 2014.

Currently LEAs and schools in eleven States are participating, including the District of Columbia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.


  • Lunches and breakfasts are served free to all students
  • No household applications for free and reduced price meals are collected or certified
  • No certification means no verification is required.
  • Potential increase in participation for lunch and breakfast.

Eligibility Criteria

Instead of applications, schools use claiming percentages based on the number of identified students for reimbursement in the school. Identified students are primarily certified for free meals through direct certification. LEAs and/or schools must have an identified student percentage of at least 25%.

LEAs multiply the identified student percentage by a factor of 1.6 to arrive at the free claiming percentage. The difference between the free claiming percentage and 100% results in the paid claiming percentage.

The claiming percentage established for a school in the initial year is guaranteed for a period of four school years.

Election and Deadline

LEAs may elect the CEP for all schools in the district, a group of schools in the district or individual schools in the district.

LEAs in CEP are required to inform students and parents that free meals will be offered to all enrolled students.

LEAs are also required to submit documentation no later than June 30 to begin CEP in the School Year (SY) beginning July 1.

Under proposed § 245.9(f)(4)(i), any LEA intending to elect the community eligibility provision for the following year for some or all of its schools would be required to submit to the State agency documentation demonstrating that the LEA or school meets the minimum identified student percentage threshold. Such documentation would include, at a minimum, the counts of identified and enrolled students, as of April 1st of the prior school year that CEP election is requested. LEAs would be required to submit participation agreement (found below) no later than June 30th. Community eligibility would begin of the school year starting July 1st and by State Agency approval.

The percentage of identified students is multiplied by the 1.6 multiplier. This percentage is then applied to the total school breakfast and lunch counts to determine USDA reimbursement rates. For example, if the percentage of identified students in a school is 62.5 percent (or more), the school's reimbursement rate would be 100 percent (62.5 percent x 1.6 multiplier = 100 percent), and it would be reimbursed at the Federal "free" rate for each breakfast and lunch served. Similarly, a school with 56.3 percent identified students would be reimbursed for 90 percent (56.3 percent x 1.6 multiplier = 90 percent) of the breakfasts and lunches served at the Federal "free" reimbursement rate; the remaining 10 percent would be reimbursed at the Federal "paid" reimbursement rate.

CEP Qualifying List - 2024

NH SAU/LEA and School Direct Certification Percentages - based on the April 1, 2024 NSLP data. Only to be used as an estimate of possible eligibility for CEP. Actual determination of Identified Student Percentage (ISP) must be done by each SAU/LEA or School using April 1, 2024 data.

CEP Application Process:

A summary of the CEP application process is below:

Note: During the COVID pandemic, the USDA allowed school food authorities (SFAs)/School Administrative Units (SAU) to choose a date for documentation to support Identified Student Percentage (ISP) calculations.

However, with the expiration of the COVID public health emergency, the previous CEP deadline of April 1 applies. The data must reflect all enrolled students directly certified in SY 2023-24, up through and including April 1, 2024.

Annual Application Process for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP):


Eligible local educational agencies (LEAs)/SAUs that meet at least one of the following criteria must formally apply to participate in the CEP for school year 2023-24:

  • LEAs/SAUs electing CEP participation for the first time;
  • LEAs/SAUs in the mid-cycle of CEP participation that are requesting changes to their currently approved ISP;
  • LEAs/SAUs currently in year four of their CEP cycle with an ISP greater than or equal to 25 percent, and would like to start a new four-year cycle;
  • LEAs/SAUs currently in the fourth year of CEP participation with a new calculated ISP greater than or equal to 15 percent, but less than 25 percent (eligible for one “grace” year based on the ISP as of April 1, 2024, in year 4 of the current four-year cycle). Note: LEAs/SAUs that reach the required 25 percent threshold as of April 1 of the grace year are eligible to begin a new four-year cycle in the following school year. LEAs/SAUs that do not meet the threshold as of April 1 of the grace year must return to standard counting and claiming or elect another special provision option, and must collect school meal applications, in the following school year.

Required Documentation:

The three data elements include:

  1. CEP Participation Worksheet for 2024-2025 (NHED)
  2. Master student enrollment file: This is the total enrollment from the LEA’s/SAUs master enrollment file. Do not enter data from the food service point-of-sale data system.
  3. CEP Student Identification List
    • CEP Student Identification List Instructions

Upon approval of these documents, the ONPS will generate and distribute the LEA's/ SAUs CEP Addendum.

Civil Rights

USDA Additional CEP Planning and Implementation Guidance

USDA Memos

  • SP 09-2023 - CEP: Statutory Annual Notification and Publication Requirements and SY2023-2024 Election Deadline
  • SP 20-2017 - CEP: Annual Notification and Publication Requirements
  • SP 54-2016 - CEP: Guidance and Updated Q&As
  • SP 61-2016 - CEP: Planning and Implementation Guidance

USDA Approved Waiver




Amanda Marshall, Administrator
(603) 271-3860