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CEP SP 22-2023 Implementing the New Minimum ISP

On September 26, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued Policy Memorandum SP 22-2023: Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): Implementing the New Minimum Identified Student Percentage (ISP). You can view this policy memo on the USDA School Meals Policy web page External link opens in new window or tab..

The CEP is a four-year alternative meal counting and collection procedure. Participation in the CEP reduces paperwork and other administrative burdens at the local level by simplifying the traditional operating procedures for meal eligibility and meal counting while eliminating the meal application process. For more information on the CEP, please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) CEP web page.

Changes to the Final Rule

Effective October 26, 2023, the USDA is lowering the minimum ISP from 40 percent to 25 percent. The ISP is the percentage of students who are directly certified to receive free meals. This means that local educational agencies (LEA), schools, and groups of schools are required to have a minimum ISP of 25 percent to be eligible to participate in the CEP. Additionally, eligibility for a grace year is lowered from 30 percent to 15 percent. This means that LEAs, schools, and groups of schools who are in year 4 of the CEP cycle and have an ISP less than 25 percent but equal to or greater than 15 percent are eligible for a grace year.

The final rule can be found on the Final Rule: Child Nutrition Programs - CEP Increasing Options for Schools web page External link opens in new window or tab..

When considering participation in the CEP, LEAs are encouraged to consider their ability to provide meals at no cost to students and cover LEA operating costs. If the total amount of federal assistance available does not fully cover the cost of offering all students meals at no charge, LEAs must use non-federal funds to cover the gap. In California, supplemental state reimbursement will be provided to cover the gap between meals claimed at the paid rate and meals claimed at the free rate. The multiplier remains at 1.6, which means the ISP multiplied by 1.6 is the percent of meals that can be claimed at the free rate. The remaining meals must be claimed at the paid rate. For example, if a school has an ISP of 25 percent, they will only claim 40 percent of monthly meals served at the free rate (25 x 1.6 = 40). The remaining 60 percent of meals served must be claimed at the paid rate.

As a reminder, the California Universal Meals Program added California Education Code Section 49564.3, which requires LEAs with high poverty schools to adopt a federal universal meal service provision, such as CEP or Provision 2. A school is considered high poverty if the site is eligible to operate under the CEP. This means that any school with an ISP of 25 percent or more is required to apply for a federal provision.

By April 15 of each school year, state agencies are required to notify LEAs of districtwide eligibility and, by May 1, publish a list of LEAs and schools that are eligible and nearly eligible for CEP participation on their websites. Eligible LEAs and schools are those with ISPs that are 25 percent or higher. Nearly eligible LEAs and schools are those with ISPs less than 25 percent but greater than or equal to 15 percent.

The deadline to apply for CEP for School Year (SY) 2023–24 was June 30, 2023. LEAs will be able to utilize the lower ISP threshold when applying for the CEP for SY 2024–25. The deadline to apply for CEP for SY 2024–25 is June 30, 2024. Additional information on the application process will be sent in spring of 2024.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your county’s School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Specialist. A current list of SNP Specialists is available on the SNP Specialist Directory web page. You can also contact to be directed to your SNP Specialist.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, October 23, 2023
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