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USDA Expands Access to School Breakfast and Lunch

The Department of Agriculture Tuesday announced it is giving an estimated 3,000 more school districts in high-need areas the option to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost.

The expansion is possible through the Community Eligibility provision, commonly known as CEP. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the effort “Will decrease childhood hunger, improve child health and student readiness, and put our nation on the path to better nutrition and wellness.” CEP is a simplified meal service option that allows schools to provide meals at no cost to all students without requiring families to apply for free and reduced-price meals.

School districts receive federal funding based on a formula using existing data, and local or state funds must fill any gap between program costs and federal support. Previously, at least 40 percent of students had to live in households participating in federal assistance programs for a school or school district to be eligible for CEP. This final rule lowers that threshold from 40 percent to 25 percent.

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