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 Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the federal school meal programs, including the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and works cooperatively with the USED.  There is a connection between School meal programs, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), Free/Reduced Meals, and programs operated under Title I, Part A (Title I).  State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) often use NSLP data to carry out certain Title I requirements. 

Section 1113 of the ESEA states an LEA must rank its school attendance areas or schools based on the percentage of economically disadvantaged students to determine a school’s eligibility to receive Title I funds, to allocate funds to selected schools, and to calculate the amount generated for Title I services to eligible private school students. In terms of accountability, each SEA and LEA that receives funding under Title I must assess and report annually on the extent to which economically disadvantaged students are making progress toward meeting state academic achievement standards in reading or language arts and mathematics.  Moreover, an LEA must hold schools accountable ​for the achievement of student subgroups. To meet these requirements, an LEA must have school-level data on economically disadvantaged students.  For many LEAs, NSLP data are likely to be the best source to identify those students.

The School Nutrition Program supervises the CEP and Free/ Reduced Meal eligibilities and documentation. The School Nutrition Program in each LEA provides the poverty numbers to the Title I Staff to complete the Eligible Attendance Area Spreadsheet to determine the rank order of schools.

LEAs may choose to use the free and reduced application process in which each student must apply for status determination. Additionally, LEAs may choose to implement CEP eligibility data, such as data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, to determine the Federal cash reimbursement for school meals provided by USDA. With this method, LEAs do not rely on annual household applications that are generally used to determine eligibility for free and reduced-price meals. A school may elect for CEP if at least 40-percent of its students are directly certified, or otherwise identified for free meals through means other than household applications (for example, students directly certified through SNAP).  To account for low-income families not reflected in the direct certification data, USDA sets meal reimbursement levels for CEP schools by multiplying the percentage of students identified through the direct certification data by a multiplier established in the Act (currently the multiplier is 1.6). LEAs may use a combination of both the free and reduced lunch method and/or the CEP method amongst its schools.  However, the CEP schools must all use the 1​.6 multiplier or not.  Either method that is utilized by the district, the schools still must be served in rank order. 

Nevertheless, which ever method the LEA selects, the School Nutrition Program provides the poverty numbers to the Federal Program Director to utilize for the completion of the Eligible Attendance Area Spreadsheet.  The Eligible Attendance Area Spreadsheet located on the Title I section of the Federal Programs website is color coded and may be helpful for the LEA to determine rank order.​