Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a universal meal plan under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) that permits eligible districts and schools to provide meal service to all students at no charge, regardless of economic status. (Section 104a of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act)

To be eligible to participate, a district, school, or groups of schools from the same district must have a directly certified identified student percentage of at least 40% by April 1, prior to the first year of implementation.  Each school does not have to meet the 40% threshold individually if enrolling a district or groups of school within a district; however the average directly certified identified student percentage must be at least 40%.

Download the CEP Fact Sheet.

CEP Information

CEP District Toolkit

Frequently Asked Questions download

What direct certified data will a district/school use if it begins implementing the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) in the 2014-15 school year?

A district/school will use the direct certified data as of April 1 of the school year prior to implementation. For the 2014-15 school year, a district/ school will use the direct certified data collected through the March 2014 claiming process.

If a district/school has enrolled in CEP and decides to update its identified student percentage, does that update begin a new four-year cycle?

No. These updates occur within the four year cycle.

If a district’s/school’s direct certified percent increases within the 4 year cycle, will the CEP claiming percentage automatically increase accordingly or will the district/school remain at the original claiming percentage determined at the time of application?

No, the CEP claiming percentage will not automatically increase if a district’s/school’s identified student percent increases. It will remain at the original claiming percentage determined at the time of application unless the district/school requests an update.

Is a district/school required by law to implement CEP?

No. Although this program is now being offered nationwide, participation at the district/school level is completely optional.

Where can my district/school obtain a copy of the State Household Survey?

You can download this form here: Household Information Survey

Will CEP enrollment affect identification for pre-K eligibility?

No. Determination for eligibility for the Voluntary pre-K program in Tennessee is application based. For questions on pre-K eligibility contact

Are all pre-K students considered direct certified?

No, pre-K students are treated the same as all students for CEP. Some students may be direct certified while others may be eligible as determined by the application process.

If a district/school has a pre-K program that is not a Head Start pre-K, can it still include the pre-K students in the enrolled and or identified student count (as applicable)?

Students in Tennessee's Pre-K are not automatically eligible for free lunches; they must be directly certified or complete an application. In order to receive free or reduced meal benefits, they must be included in enrollment and identified students as applicable.

How does a district/school indicate its interest in participating in CEP?

It will enroll using the regular application packet via the Tennessee: Meals, Accounting and Claiming (TMAC) system.

Is reimbursement per day or per meal?

Reimbursement is per meal served.

What is the reimbursement rate?  Is it the same for breakfast and lunch?

The reimbursement rate is different for breakfast and lunch. The current reimbursement rates are on the U.S. Department of Agriculture site

Is dinner included as a reimbursable meal under CEP?

No, however the CEP free claiming percentage may be used when determining school or site eligibility for other School Nutrition Programs such as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, Afterschool Snacks and the Seamless Summer Option.

Are schools enrolled in CEP allowed to charge for a´ la carte items? What about second servings?

Consistent with current practice, all schools, including CEP schools, must charge for a´ la carte items and second meals.

The menus/servings must be planned to serve one meal per child per meal service (breakfast, lunch). No schools, including CEP schools, may provide a second serving or second meal for free.

Do charter schools in a district participate as part of the community program or as individual schools?

It depends whether the charter school is operating as an independent entity (School Food Authority) or as a part of a school system. If the charter schools are acting independently, they will use the data they have gathered themselves. If a charter school is operating as a school within a LEA, it will use the data for the school or other schools within the district.

How will districts determine funding based on socioeconomic data for CEP schools?

Funding for 2014-15 is current year data. In Tennessee, we will use the household survey (i.e. state form) to collect socioeconomic data for schools participating in CEP along with direct certification information for funding in 2015-16.

Who should process the household survey?

This is a local decision; however any employee paid 100% from school nutrition funds cannot collect and/or process the household survey.

My district/school is not enrolling in CEP. Do we have to collect the household survey?

No. districts/schools not participating in CEP will continue current practice i.e. collecting free and reduced price lunch applications.

How will a district determine within-district Title I allocations among schools?

Districts will use the free and reduced price data from the 2013-14 school year to make school level allocations for the 2014-15 school year. The department will continue to provide guidance on determining school level allocations for future school years.

Will the multiplier change during the four year cycle?

Once enrolled, a district/school will maintain the same multiplier throughout the entire four year cycle.

How will a district/school determine its E-rate discount?

The Federal Communications Commission, which sets policy for the E-rate program, has determined that community eligibility schools may continue to use the free and reduced-price certification data that they relied on for the most recent year in which the schools did not participate in community eligibility to determine discounts on services received under E-rate.

Are the household surveys subject to school nutrition administrative review?

Because the household survey is not used to determine eligibility for meal services, it is not subject to the school nutrition administrative review. However, it may be reviewed during general school audits.


Last Update: May 8, 2015