***For Immediate Release***
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Contact: Magdalena Cazarez
C: (402) 504-0074
Community Eligibility Provision is a major opportunity for Nebraska Schools, despite low national ranking
Participation in CEP provides more students with nutritious school meals
LINCOLN, NE – During the 2019-20 school year, less than 10 percent of eligible Nebraska schools participated in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) according to a new report released today by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This continues Nebraska’s rank as the last place at 51st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in participation in CEP.
CEP allows schools in high-poverty areas to receive federal funds to serve meals to all students, ensuring that children whose families are struggling to put food on the table will get healthy meals at school. The program is available to schools where 40 percent or more of the students are directly certified for free meals without an application because they have been identified as eligible by another program, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as “SNAP”) or Medicaid.
The report shows that nearly 275 Nebraska schools were eligible for CEP during the 2019-20 school year, however, only 26 of these eligible schools participated in the program. This is a proportional decrease compared to 2018-19 due to a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of Nebraska schools that became eligible for CEP in 2019. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) acknowledged the use of an improved tracking system during the 2019-20 school year as the cause of the increase. Even with more eligible schools, there was no increase in the number of schools that chose to adopt CEP in Nebraska this year as compared to 2018-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has likely increased the number of eligible schools even further. Nebraska Appleseed’s Senior Economic Justice Program Coordinator, Eric Savaiano, said:
“Since CEP eligibility is based on participation in government benefits like SNAP, more schools and districts will likely be eligible to participate this year. It is up to decision-makers in districts around the state to adopt this program that will support struggling families and students.”
The Administrator of the Nebraska Department of Education’s Nutrition Department, Sharon Davis, also acknowledged how beneficial this program can be for schools and districts:
“As schools look to find new approaches to meet the needs of their students during this public health crisis, CEP offers a solution to serve more students the meals they need to learn and grow.”
In March, the Food and Nutrition Service department of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended the deadline for schools to apply to adopt CEP. This extended deadline creates an opportunity for more Nebraska schools to apply for CEP by August 31, 2020.
“Families around our state are struggling. Adopting CEP would take the burden of school breakfast and lunch charges off of parents and help more kids get access to food they might not be getting at home because of shrinking family budgets. The time is now to make sure this program is in as many eligible Nebraska schools as possible,” said Savaiano.
Schools and districts can visit the Nebraska Department of Education’s CEP resource page to learn more about CEP, changes due to COVID-19, and how to participate in the program.