Posted Date: 07/31/2023
The Beauregard Parish school system has qualified for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), according to Terrie Smith, School Food Services Supervisor.
“The Community Eligibility Provision allows for students in Beauregard Parish public schools to receive breakfasts and lunches at no cost to all enrolled students on a four-year cycle,” she explained. “In addition, all the paperwork and processing previously required for free and reduced lunch applications will not be required under CEP.”
To qualify for CEP, local education agencies need to confirm a minimum Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of at least 40% in the prior school year. Identified students are those certified for free and reduced meals through other applications like SNAP or TANF, those who are identified as homeless, and those who participate in federal programs like Head Start in addition to other programs which identify a need for the provision.
CEP was authorized by Congress as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. It became available nationwide after a phase-in period. It is meant to allow LEAs in low-income areas to provide free and reduced meals to all students while also eliminating the cost and time of collecting household applications and determining eligibility.
“This is the first time that the Beauregard Parish school system has met the eligibility requirements of the program and the first time that we have been able to apply for a district-wide provision,” said Smith. “We will receive a percentage of full reimbursement for the district as a whole based on the total breakfast and total lunch counts served to students daily. The provision is approved for a four-year cycle.”
Students benefit from the provision with access to free, nutritious meals with no stigma, less time spent in cashier lines, and more time to eat. Parents no longer have to fill out applications or worry about meal accounts at the schools. The system receives full reimbursement using a formula based on the percentage of students’ daily participation, which should help balance the rising cost of food and goods that all school systems are facing, said Smith.
“We believe that participation in CEP will benefit our students, parents, schools, and the system as a whole,” she concluded. “We will monitor the participation and the costs in comparison with previous years to determine how the program helps our school district as we continue to make decisions that are fiscally responsible and in the best interests of our students.”