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Community Eligibility Provision: Guidance and Updated Q&As

EO Guidance Document #
FNS Document #
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Policy Memos
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PDF Icon Policy Memo (284.79 KB)
Please Note

This resource does not reflect the changes made by the Final Rule published on Sept. 26, 2023, which lowered the minimum identified student percentage required to elect CEP from 40% to 25%.

DATE: September 9, 2016
SUBJECT: Community Eligibility Provision: Guidance and Updated Q&As
TO: Regional Directors
Special Nutrition Programs
All Regions
State Directors
Child Nutrition Programs
All States

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a meal service option for local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools in high-poverty areas. CEP allows participating LEAs and schools to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without the burden of collecting household applications. By eliminating the household application process and streamlining meal counting and claiming procedures, CEP may substantially reduce administrative burden related to operating the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Additionally, CEP may increase student participation, creating more opportunities for students to receive nutrition necessary to optimize academic performance. CEP may be implemented in individual schools, groups of schools, or entire school districts.

On July 29, 2016, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the final rule, National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program: Eliminating Applications through Community Eligibility as Required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 [81 FR 50194, July 29, 2016; 7 CFR 245.9(l)], codifying CEP in federal regulation. Public comment from state administering agencies, local school districts, and advocacy groups, feedback from stakeholders at national conferences and meetings, and knowledge gained during the phased-in implementation of CEP in several pilot states contributed to the development of the final rule. The CEP final rule will support school children’s access to healthy meals and improve program integrity, today and in the future.

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 previously issued guidance related to CEP. The attached Q&As supersede the CEP Q&As released with SP 19-2016, SP 45-2015, SP 16-2015, and SP 21-2014 (v.2).

Changes in this edition of the Q&As include:

  • Explaining the requirement for LEAs operating CEP to conduct a data match between the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and student enrollment records at least once annually;
  • Highlighting updated options for FNS-834 reporting;
  • Explaining new requirements and opportunities related to the transfer and carryover of eligibility for students transitioning from CEP schools to non-provision schools, during and between school years;
  • Clarifying Identified Student Percentage (ISP) rounding rules;
  • Explaining that excess funds from other child nutrition programs may be used to cover operational costs under CEP; and
  • Clarifying the differences between CEP and Provision 2.

New questions include questions 30, 34, 65, 73, 74, and 75. Revised questions include questions 10, 13, 15, 17, 20, 33, 36, 42, 43, 44, and 60. Minor wording changes and revisions to regulatory citations to reflect publication of the final rule also were made throughout. [New/Revised] appears next to new or revised questions.

The CEP Resource Center (available at: also provides extensive resources school officials at the local, state, and federal level may use to better understand CEP and its positive benefits. LEAs may use the CEP Estimator Tool (available at: to determine if CEP is a financially viable option, based on the LEA’s expected monthly reimbursement rate.

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.

Angela Kline
Policy and Program Development Division
Child Nutrition Programs


  • Frequently Asked Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Questions
    - Notification and Publication Requirements
    - LEA and School Level Eligibility and Grouping
    - Direct Certification Data
    - Identified Student Percentage (ISP) Determination
    - Changes in CEP Election
    - Transfer and Visiting Students
    - Reimbursements and Claiming
    - Administrative Review
    - Verification
    - Reporting and Record-keeping
    - Other Federal Programs
    - Title I and Other Educational Funding
Page updated: September 26, 2023

The contents of this guidance document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.