Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)


What is Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a 4-year reimbursement option for eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools participating in both the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) that wish to offer free school meals to all children in high poverty schools without collecting household applications.  It is intended to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty LEAs and schools. 

To Participate

  1. LEAs and schools would be required to have an identified student percentage of at least 40 percent based on data as of April 1st of the prior school year.  The 40 percent threshold to participate in CEP can be determined at the LEA level, by individual school or by grouping several schools together to get the needed percentage rate.
  2. LEAs agree to serve both breakfast and lunch at no cost to all students for up to four consecutive school years in qualifying and approved schools.
  3. CEP sites must also agree to cover any costs of providing meals above the amounts provided in Federal assistance, with non-Federal funds. If a transfer from the general fund is necessary to cover such a cost, schools must be able to show that the available funds from the general fund are from non-Federal resources.
  4. Residential Child Care Institutions are not eligible to participate in CEP.

Identified Students are students who are eligible for free meals without the collection of applications, and include the following:

  • Directly certified on the basis of participation in the FoodShare, Wisconsin Works (W-2) Cash Benefits, and the extension of benefits to students within the same household
  • Directly certified foster child (foster children do not provide an extension of benefits)
  • Homeless, runaway, or migrant youth (certified by coordinator listing)
  • Head Start (certified by the Head Start coordinator listing)

SFAs will be reimbursed at a Federal free category rate using the ratio of Identified Students to enrolled students (who have access to one meal service daily), multiplied by the USDA multiplier factor (Current USDA Multiplier Factor is 1.6).  The multiplier factor is intended to estimate the number of free and reduced price meals that would have been served if applications were collected.  The difference between the free claiming percentage and 100 percent represents the paid claiming percentage.  There are no reduced price meals in CEP. 

Example of determining free and paid claiming percentages:

  • Number of Identified Students as of April 1: 145
  • Enrollment as of April 1: 236
    • 145 Identified Students divided by 236 Total Enrollment = 0.614406
    • 0.614406 x 100 = 61.4406; rounded to 61.441
    • 61.441 x 1.6 (Current USDA Claiming Factor) = 98.31; rounded to 98.3
    • 98.3% of all meals served are reimbursed at the FREE rate
    • 100% minus 98.3% equals 1.7%. Therefore, 1.7% of all meals served are reimbursed at the PAID rate.

When considering whether to participate in community eligibility, LEAs and schools should consider the meal participation level, the anticipated level of Federal reimbursement, and the non-Federal resources available.  To assist in this process, the USDA has provided the following tool:


CEP Eligible and Near Eligible School Districts

Annually Wisconsin DPI will compose a list of LEAs (Local Educational Agencies) eligible and near eligible to participate in Community Eligibility Provision. Information used to compose this list is from the Verification Collection Reports of SY 2014-2015.  Data is not fully reflective of the number of identified students, nor is it representative of data as of April 1, 2015. This list is intended for informational purposes and does not grant eligibility for Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Local Educational Agencies that do not qualify as a whole may have individual schools or groups of schools that are eligible to participate in CEP. 

This link contains both LEA and school level eligible and near eligible data for SY 2015-16. Click between the two lower left tabs within the workbook to view: CEP LEA and School Notification Report.

Benefits of CEP

  • Lunches and breakfast are served free to all students in participating schools
  • No household applications for free and reduced price meals are collected
  • No verification of free and reduced applications is required
  • Potential for increased meal participation rates, especially breakfast
  • Simplifies the counting and claiming process by not having to track free, reduced and paid students

To Apply 


  • CEP participating sites for School Year 2014-15
  • LEAs electing schools to participate in CEP need to send in the Agreement Form and supporting documentation. Applications will be accepted beginning May 1, 2015. The deadline to apply for SY2015-16 is August 31, 2015.
  • CEP sites will only need to track the total number of breakfast and lunch meals served each day, and will no longer need to keep track of meals served by FREE, REDUCED, and PAID- rate categories.  Instead, the total number of meals will be reimbursed at FREE or PAID rates.

Counting and Claiming-Internal Controls

CEP Materials

DPI School Nutrition Team Mailings

USDA Information  

Title I and Other Funding Programs     


Alternate Income forms

While CEP removes the need for free and reduced meal paper applications there may still be a need to collect household socio-economic data for other programs such as Title 1 and SAGE. There are now two applications to choose from to collect this data.  Please note, all costs associated with distributing, collecting and reviewing these household income forms must be paid for with funds outside of the nonprofit school food service account.

Modified USDA Free and Reduced Application 

It is now permissible to use a modified version of the USDA Free and Reduced Meal Application for CEP and non-CEP schools.  This application had to include some additional language regarding CEP and has been included in the application and additional documents below.  Some of the benefits of this application include:
  • Only one application is needed for all schools in the district both CEP and non-CEP
  • If a student transfers from a CEP school to a non-CEP school, this application can be used to determine eligibility in the non-CEP school since it is a USDA form.

You must be able to identify applications that have only CEP students on them as these  applications are not needed for meal eligibility and will not be included in verification, Independent Review of Applications or as part of certification and benefit issuance during an Administrative Review.  We added a box on the application to assist with this. 

Even though this is a USDA application, the processing of applications with only CEP students on them, still cannot be charged to the food service account since it is not needed for the school meal program eligibility determination.  If there is an application with both CEP and non-CEP students listed, this application is needed to determine eligibility for non-CEP students and is permissible to charge to the food service account. 

Alternate Household Income Application

The Alternate Household Income Application is another alternative to collecting socio economic data from students in CEP schools.  This application has been designed intentionally to be as easy to complete as possible to assist in increasing the response rate from households. This application would be recommended in SFAs that have only CEP schools and the USDA Free and Reduced Price application will not be distributed at all.

CEP Contacts

Karrie Isaacson, RDN, CD
Phone: 608.266.2416

Jessica Schultz, RDN, CD
Phone: 608.266.3296


For questions about this information, contact Angela Paul (608) 267-9206