Skip to main content


Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Service Directors/Managers
Child Nutrition Program Administration
Friday, March 29, 2024
Community Eligibility Provision State Subsidy Questions and Answers

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

1.  Who can participate in CEP?

To participate in CEP, at least 25% of enrolled students must be certified for free meals without an application. An entire School Food Authority (SFA), individual school building/Recipient Agency (RA), or group of RAs within an SFA can participate in CEP. SFAs should determine how to implement CEP to maximize the benefits to the most students.

2.  What does Identified Student Percentage (ISP) mean?

Identified student percentage is the percentage of enrolled students that are eligible for free meals without use of household free and reduced-price meal applications. This includes SNAP and Medicaid recipients identified through the electronic direct certification matching process (DCMP) and extension of these eligibility benefits to siblings or other household members not matched. It also includes homeless children identified by the homeless liaison, Head Start or Evenstart students, migrant, runaway and foster children certified directly by the State or local foster agency.

3.  If we have one year left of CEP at our elementary building, can we reapply now to include both our elementary and qualifying high school building?

Yes, a current, approved four-year CEP cycle can be ended and a new cycle can begin to include more RAs in the group.

4.  If a student is homeless according to my school’s homeless liaison, but is also listed on the DCMP database as receiving SNAP benefits, am I correct to assume that I should report that student in only one category? If so, which category should they be reported in?

That is correct. Identified students should only be reported in one category. The reporting priority order for direct certification is:


TANF/FDPIR/Other Programs


5.  Can Pre-Kindergarten or Universal Pre-Kindergarten students be included on the CEP application?

These students should be included in your enrollment total if they are being fed as part of your National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. If they are also identified students, they should also be included in the ISP.

6.  If you have a relatively low ISP, can you join a neighboring SFA with a very high ISP and submit a joint application to spread the reimbursement over more schools?

No. SFAs are required to operate separately from other SFAs.

7.  What are the benefits of CEP?

CEP allows schools to offer breakfast and lunch each school day at no cost to all students. CEP also eliminates unpaid meal charges, minimizes stigma, reduces paperwork for school nutrition staff and families, and streamlines meal service operations.

8.  How do I apply for CEP?

SFAs must submit a CEP application along with enrollment records to support the ISP. The enrollment record/master list must include all students and be coded to indicate which students were identified to be eligible for CEP. The student enrollment and identified students by category should match the CEP application. CEP application and instructions can be found here.

9.  How should SFAs handle partial CEP implementation? Specifically, when families have children in CEP and non-CEP schools.

If SFA-wide CEP implementation is not possible, the SFA should clearly communicate to families which schools will operate CEP, and which will use standard counting and claiming, and why. Multiple outreach methods to non-CEP families to complete free and reduced-price meal applications is also recommended.

CEP State Subsidy

10.  What is the CEP State Subsidy?

Beginning in the 2023-24 school year, additional State funding will be provided so that all CEP meals are reimbursed at the free rate. SFAs that receive federal paid reimbursement for a portion of CEP meals claimed, will receive additional state reimbursement for those meals to equal the free reimbursement rate. 

11.  Will the CEP State Subsidy be available for the 2024-25 school year?

The subsidy is an appropriation in the annual State budget. We anticipate the subsidy will be available in future years but cannot guarantee it. It is recommended that SFAs maximize federal reimbursement in CEP by directly certifying as many students as possible annually during the CEP application period and reapply for CEP when ISPs increase.

12.  If we are already approved for CEP and in an active cycle, do we need to apply again to receive the additional state subsidy?

No, if you are already in an active CEP cycle, you do not need to re-apply to receive the additional State subsidy.

13.  If we have one school at 36% ISP and one at 18% ISP, and we group them together bringing the ISP down to 27%, we can apply as group and ALL meals served at both schools will get reimbursed at the full free rate because of the CEP State Subsidy?

That is correct. SFAs should determine how to implement CEP to maximize the benefit to the most students. The state subsidy will offset paid category reimbursement to the SFA.

14.  If I filled out the CEP app and box 11 turned red saying the schools are ineligible, is there no chance of qualifying?

The CEP application turns red in box 11 when the SFA/Individual RA/Group of RAs do not meet the 25% ISP needed to be eligible for CEP.

15.  Can we use income forms or meal applications to identify students for CEP and include on the CEP application?

No. Students who are eligible for free meals based on submission of a free and reduced-price meal application are not included in the ISP, even if the application includes a SNAP/TANF/FDPIR number. We encourage you to check the Direct Certification Matching Process (DCMP) database to directly match these numbers to electronic data to directly certify these students.  If an electronic match for an application that includes a SNAP number cannot be found, the student cannot be included in the ISP.

16.  If we are approved for CEP and therefore do not need to collect income applications from families, how would we collect free and reduced-price eligibility data to use for other programs outside of the Child Nutrition Programs?

Free and Reduced-price data can be collected through Household Income Forms. A Household Income Form that can be used for these purposes is sent to SFAs upon approval of CEP. It should also be noted that funds from the Child Nutrition Programs cannot be used to process these forms and the Household Income Form cannot be used to provide free or reduced-price meals to students.  Should a student move within or outside of the SFA to a non-participating building, they must either be directly certified using the DCMP, or provide a eligible Free and Reduced-Price Eligibility Application to receive Program benefits. 

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted to USDA by:

  1. mail:
    U.S. Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
    1400 Independence Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20250-9410; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.