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Community Eligibility Provision: Guidance and Updated Q&As

FNS Document #
SP 09-2024
Resource type
Policy Memos
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Policy memo (474.05 KB)
DATE:February 6, 2024
MEMO CODE:SP 09-2024
SUBJECT:Community Eligibility Provision: Guidance and Updated Q&As
TO:Regional Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) meal service option that allows schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) in high poverty areas to offer meals at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications.

FNS published a final rule, Child Nutrition Programs: Community Eligibility Provision-Increasing Options for Schools (88 FR 65778), on Sept. 26, 2023, with an effective date of Oct. 26, 2023, which lowered the minimum identified student percentage (ISP) threshold from 40 to 25 percent. As a result, more students, families, and schools have the opportunity to experience CEP’s benefits, such as increasing access to school meals at no cost, eliminating unpaid meal charges, minimizing stigma, and streamlining meal service operations.

This memorandum provides new guidance and Questions and Answers (Q&As) to address changes made by the CEP final rule. Additionally, this memorandum provides clarification on guidance related to CEP. The attached Q&As supersede SP 54-2016, Community Eligibility Provision: Guidance and Updated Q&As.

Notable changes include:

Updates based on the final rule:

  • Changed minimum thresholds for electing CEP, electing a CEP grace year, and for identification of eligible and nearly eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools.
  • Updated language on the importance of considering the financial viability of CEP prior to electing.

Updates based on current stage of CEP implementation:

  • Removed references to extending the deadline for electing CEP. The previous edition of the Q&As was issued the final year USDA offered flexibility through SP 30-2016: Extension of the Deadline for Local Educational Agencies to Elect the Community Eligibility Provision for School Year 2016-17.
  • Updated language on transfer policies to reflect the implementation of the mandatory 10-day carryover requirements for transfer students, regardless of whether they are transferring within the same LEA or between LEAs, effective July 1, 2019.

Miscellaneous Updates:

  • Condensed portions of the CEP history section.
  • Added language discussing direct certification with Medicaid, AP and SAT test fee waivers/reductions, unpaid meal charges, and Summer EBT.
  • Clarified the funding available to support CEP.
  • Clarified how CEP schools determine eligibility and reimbursement when operating the Seamless Summer Option.

Minor wording changes and revisions to regulatory citations to reflect publication of the final rule were also made throughout. [New/Revised] appears next to new or revised questions.

The CEP Resource Center provides extensive resources officials at the local, state, and federal levels may use to better understand CEP and its positive benefits. The CEP Resource Center includes the CEP Estimator Tool, which LEAs can use to determine if CEP is a financially viable option, based on the LEA’s expected monthly reimbursement.

State agencies are reminded to distribute this memorandum to program operators immediately. LEAs, school food authorities, and other program operators should direct any questions concerning this guidance to their state agency. State agencies with questions should contact the appropriate FNS regional office.

Heather Hopwood
Acting Director
School Meal Policy Division
Child Nutrition Programs


Page updated: February 12, 2024