What is the Community Eligibility Provision?
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a federal school meal funding option that allows schools with high percentages of low-income children to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students – essentially becoming Hunger-Free Schools. Not only does community eligibility increase participation in the school meal programs, it also reduces labor costs for schools, increases efficiency, reduces stigma, and increases federal revenues. Three school districts in Maryland are using community eligibility district-wide for all schools in the district. These include all 9 schools in Somerset County, all 177 schools in Baltimore City, and all 12 schools in Dorchester County.
Which Schools in Maryland are Eligible for CEP?
Hundreds of schools in Maryland are eligible,and the following lists CEP-eligible and near-eligible schools: Maryland Schools Eligible to Elect the Community Eligibility Provision 2018-2019 School Year (pdf). Interested schools should contact their Food and Nutrition Services Department to sign-up.
Read more about community eligibility in our school breakfast report, Creating Healthier Students & Better Learners with the School Breakfast Program: School Breakfast Report Card for Maryland (pdf).
The History of Hunger-Free Schools in Maryland
Included in the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, community eligibility simplifies administrative processes by removing the need for individual free and reduced price meal applications (known as “FARMS” forms), which can be confusing for families and burdensome for schools to collect and process. Instead, schools are reimbursed for school meals through a formula based on the number of “identified students” that are in foster care or Head Start, are homeless, migrant or living in households that receive SNAP (food stamps), TANF cash assistance or the Food Distribution on Indian Reservation benefits.
Maryland Hunger Solutions led advocacy efforts to bring community eligibility to Maryland. Community eligibility was first implemented during the 2013-2014 school year in five Washington County Schools and The SEED School of Maryland.
During the 2014-2015 school year, over 374 schools were eligible to participate, yet only 23 schools elected community eligibility. As a result, more than 7,500 students attended Hunger-Free Schools in Maryland. However, this represented just 6% of all eligible schools.
In 2015, Maryland Hunger Solutions led advocacy efforts to increase utilization of the federal funding available through community eligibility. The Maryland General Assembly passed The Hunger-Free Schools Act of 2015, which increases access to community eligibility. As a result of this law, the number of Hunger-Free Schools increased from just 23 in the 2014-2015 school year to 227 in the 2015-2016 school year.
- Download the list of CEP schools in the 2015-2016 school year (pdf) and a map of CEP schools in the 2015-2016 school year (pdf).
- In the 2016-2017 school year, more than 98,200 students in Maryland attend a Hunger-Free School. Download the list of CEP schools in 2016-2017 (pdf).
- In the 2017-2018 school year, more than 100,000 students attended a Hunger-Free School. Download the list of CEP schools in 2017-2018 (pdf).
More Information about Community Eligibility:
- Community Eligibility in the U.S. Infographic (pdf)
- Community Eligibility: Making High-Poverty Schools Hunger Free – report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
- Community Eligibility Helps Low-Income Students and Schools (pdf) – report by the Food Research & Action Center
- 374 Schools in Maryland Can Combat Child Hunger with a Successful Tool, But Are Not Yet Doing So – blog post from the Maryland Center on Economic Policy
- USDA Food and Nutrition Service information on Community Eligibility
- Data on Community Eligibility – Maryland Department of Education