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CEP Application and the New Minimum ISP

This Management Bulletin provides information on the new minimum ISP for the Community Eligibility Provision.

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Service Directors

Number: SNP-07-2023

Date: November 2023

Reference: U.S Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service Policy Memorandum SP 22-2023: http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/policy; Community Eligibility Final Rule: https://www.fns.usda.gov/federal_register; Community Eligibility Provision Planning and Implementation Guidance: https://www.fns.usda.gov/fall-2016-edition-community-eligibility-provision-planning-and-implementation-guidance

Supersedes: Management Bulletin SNP-02-2022

Subject: Community Eligibility Provision Application and Implementing the New Minimum Identified Student Percentage


This management bulletin (MB) supersedes MB SNP-02-2022. It provides information regarding the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and instructions to local educational agencies (LEA) applying to participate in the CEP. It also provides updated information regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Final Rule that lowered the minimum identified student percentage (ISP) from 40 percent to 25 percent. Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 245.9(f)(4)(i) requires LEAs interested in applying for the CEP to submit required documentation to the state agency no later than June 30 of the prior school year.

Background

The CEP is a four-year alternative meal counting and collection procedure provision implemented as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made the CEP available nationwide to all LEAs beginning in School Year 2014‒15. Residential child care institutions may not participate in the CEP.

Universal Meals Requirement for High Poverty Schools

California Education Code 49564.3 requires that LEAs adopt a federal universal meal provision at all high poverty schools within their LEA. Federal universal meal provisions include the CEP or Provisions 1, 2, or 3. High poverty schools are defined as schools that are eligible to operate under the CEP. With the new federal CEP Rule, California high poverty schools are those that meet the CEP ISP threshold of 25 percent and must apply to operate a federal provision starting in School Year 2024–25. The determination for this requirement is made at the site, not district, level.

Benefits of the Community Eligibility Provision

The CEP is one of the federal provisions established to increase access to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) while decreasing the administrative burden on the LEA. This is done specifically through an alternative method for claiming student meals in high-poverty schools. The benefits of CEP include:

  • Reduces administrative costs and paperwork for the school
  • Schools on the CEP do not collect and certify NSLP applications to determine meal eligibility or complete the annual application verification process
  • Meal lines move faster because staff do not have to categorize each meal served as free, reduced-price, or paid
  • Maximizes federal reimbursements that support NSLP and SBP operations at school sites, which supports the intent of the California Universal Meals Program
Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to participate in the CEP, the LEA must:

  • Have an ISP of at least 25 percent as of April 1 of the year prior to implementing the CEP, for a school or group of schools
  • Agree to serve free breakfast and lunch to all children in the participating schools
  • Have a record of administering the NSLP or SBP in accordance with program regulations
  • Count total lunches and total breakfasts served to students daily
  • Not collect household applications for free and reduced-price meals
Identified Student Percentage

The ISP is the percentage of students who qualify for a meal at no charge without completing meal applications, based on the enrollment of a school or group of schools as of April 1 of the school year prior to participation in the CEP. This percentage includes all students who are directly certified for meals at no cost on the basis of their receiving CalFresh, California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS), Medi-Cal free benefits, or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations benefits, and all other students in the same household to whom program benefits are extended. Also included are students certified as homeless, migrant, runaway, foster, or Head Start, and nonapplicants approved by local officials. Students directly certified for reduced-price meals through Medi-Cal cannot be included in a school’s ISP.

To ensure that the LEA includes all students who are directly certified in the ISP calculation, those with access to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) can obtain a list of directly certified students from the CALPADS in addition to obtaining a list of directly certified students from the local county contact. LEAs without access to CALPADS must obtain a list of directly certified students from the local county contact. The California Department of Education (CDE) also recommends that LEAs obtain a list of students certified as homeless, migrant, runaway, or participating in a Head Start program. All student data must be current as of April 1 of the year prior to implementing the CEP. Each student may only be counted once regardless if they appear on multiple lists. County contact and additional information regarding direct certification (DC) is available on the CDE DC web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/directcert.asp.

Reimbursement

Claim reimbursement is based on the ISP and a multiplier factor established by the USDA. To determine the number of reimbursable meals at the free rate, LEAs must multiply the ISP by the multiplier, which is currently 1.6. The remaining meals served are reimbursed at the paid rate and no meals are reimbursed at the reduced-price rate. Under the California Universal Meals Program, the state will provide supplemental funding intended to cover the difference between the federal free meal reimbursement and paid reimbursement rate.

For example, a school or a group of schools with an ISP of 50 percent is reimbursed at the free rate for 80 percent of the breakfasts and lunches it served (50 percent x 1.6 = 80 percent); and the remaining 20 percent of meals served are reimbursed at the paid rate. Under the Universal Meals Program, state funding will reimburse the percentage of the paid meals at the free rate of reimbursement. If the product of the calculation of meals to claim at the free reimbursement rate exceeds 100 percent, the free claiming percentage is capped at 100 percent.

Schools electing to participate in the CEP maintain the same multiplier for the entire four-year cycle. The CEP multiplier is set federally and is currently 1.6.

Group of Schools

An LEA is eligible to participate in the CEP for a school or a group of schools. For a group of schools, the ISP is calculated with the total of identified students for that group of schools. Only schools in the same LEA can be grouped together for purposes of determining eligibility. When participating by group(s) there must be at least two school sites per group and there is no maximum number of schools that can be in a group. However, each site can only be in one group. The group(s) should be identified as Group 1, Group 2, etc., on Form SNP-19. If the LEA needs to change any of the schools participating in a group during the four-year cycle, they must implement a new group and a new four-year cycle using the application process below.

Application Process
Step 1

Upload all documents listed below into the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Attachments section of the Application Packet. These documents are located in CNIPS Download Forms. To implement the CEP, the LEA must:

  • Complete the CEP Application Checklist, Form SNP-71, to ensure a complete application packet is included. Upload the original Word version with electronic signature, or a signed scanned version with original signature.
  • Complete Form SNP-19 to amend their original Meal Count and Collection Procedures Form on file. Upload the original Excel version (not a scanned version) with electronic signature on page 4, or upload the original Excel version and scanned signature page with original signature if you cannot electronically sign.
  • Complete Form SNP-55 in order for the CDE to review the ISP calculation. Upload the original Excel version (not a scanned version) with electronic signature on page 1, or upload the original Excel version and scanned signature page with original signature if you cannot electronically sign.
Step 2

Upload all source documents used to determine the ISP into the CNIPS as attachments. Source documents may include CALPADS extract(s), local county direct certification list(s) containing CalFresh, CalWORKS, or foster data, foster list(s), homeless/runaway list(s), migrant list(s), and Head Start list(s). Refer to Form SNP-71 for details on where to locate these documents, and the correct formats in which they need to be uploaded.

Step 3

Send an email to CEP@cde.ca.gov once all forms and documents are uploaded. This will notify the CDE that you are applying for CEP and that your documents are ready for review. If all documentation above is not submitted in the appropriate format in a timely manner, the CDE has the discretion to deny the LEA participation in the CEP.

Maximizing Identified Student Percentage Increases

The CEP federal regulations require LEAs to conduct data matches at least once annually to ensure that the school or group of schools is using the highest ISP possible. Data matches should be conducted by April 1 of each year that the LEA participates in the CEP. If this review demonstrates that the ISP has increased in years two, three, or four of the CEP cycle, the CDE recommends that the LEA reapply for a new CEP cycle in order to secure the higher ISP for an additional four years. An LEA can reapply by submitting a new Form SNP-19, SNP-55, SNP-71, and all source documents and enrollment lists used to determine the ISP.

If reapplying for a new CEP cycle for any school that is part of a group, the ISP must be recalculated for all schools within the group.

Ending Participation

Participation in the CEP covers a period of four years. The LEA may stop participating at any time as long as the CDE has been notified. The LEA must submit a revised site application in the CNIPS for each site no longer participating in the CEP and an updated Meal Count and Collection Procedures (Form SNP-03) to the CDE. The LEA must also submit an updated Free and Reduced-Price Meal Policy Statement (Form SNP-NSLP-02) if the original one is no longer reflective of current operations.

If the LEA decides to end participation in the CEP between school years, schools will have time to notify families that they are returning to standard meal count and collection procedures and send out meal applications prior to the start of the next school year.

If the LEA decides to end participation midyear, a reasonable timeframe (at least 30 days) is required for the school to notify families and distribute, process, and certify meal applications.

Note that Universal Meals requires all high poverty schools to operate under a federal Provision. LEAs that are participating in CEP must meet this Universal Meals requirement and choose to discontinue CEP, are still required to operate under a federal Provision such as Provision 1, 2, or 3.

Grace Year

The CEP allows a school or a group of schools to participate in the CEP for an additional grace year. A school or a group of schools participating in the CEP that have an ISP lower than 25 percent, but equal to or greater than 15 percent as of April 1 in year four of the four-year cycle, are allowed to continue the CEP for a grace year. The grace year is outside of the four-year cycle. The USDA bases the reimbursement for schools in a grace year on the ISP as of April 1 in year four of the current four-year cycle.

Recordkeeping

The LEA must make available all documentation to support the unduplicated count of students and ISP calculation submitted with the initial application, ISP Change Request, or Grace Year Extension for review or audit while participating in the CEP. The LEA must also retain proof of the annual DC data match. In addition, this documentation must be retained for three years after submission of the final claim for reimbursement for the last fiscal year of the CEP. This includes, but is not limited to, enrollment data and reports documenting student eligibility for benefits.

Desk Audit–Identified Student Percentage Review

The CEP Guidance Manual allows the CDE to perform a desk audit for LEAs establishing a new CEP cycle when the LEA is not scheduled for a School Nutrition Programs (SNP) administrative review (AR). The CDE may conduct desk audit reviews at the LEA location (on-site) or at the CDE (off-site).

The CDE will review a statistically valid sample of the identified students, from all sites that have or will establish a new CEP cycle. If the total number of enrolled students is less than 100, the CDE will review all identified students.

Administrative Review

The CEP Guidance Manual states that if a desk audit is performed, there will be no ISP review during the AR, but the CDE will review a site participating in the CEP as part of the AR site visits.

Similar to a desk audit, the CDE will review a statistically valid sample of students for an ISP review during an SNP AR. If the total number of enrolled students is less than 100, the CDE will review all identified students. The CDE must follow the procedures in the USDA Administrative Review Manual when completing an ISP Review. The Administrative Review Manual is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section.

Results of the Identified Student Percentage Review

The CEP Guidance Manual states that when errors are found, the CDE must determine the correct ISP.

If an error rate under 10 percent is determined, the CDE will recalculate the ISP based upon the error rate. The validated ISP will be provided to the LEA upon completion of the review.

If an error rate over 10 percent is determined and the ISP is below 25 percent, the LEA must return to standard meal counting and collection procedures.

If an error rate over 10 percent is determined and the ISP is over 25 percent, the LEA will be required to provide documentation that accurately substantiates the ISP. If the CDE is unable to validate an ISP with an error rate of less than 10 percent, or the LEA is unable to produce source documentation to substantiate the ISP, the LEA must return to standard meal counting and collection procedures.

Additional Community Eligibility Provision Information

To learn more about the CEP, please visit the CDE CEP web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/cep.asp.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your SNP County Specialist. The SNP County Specialist list is available in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS, Form ID Caseload. You can also email SNPInfo@cde.ca.gov to be directed to your SNP Specialist.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, December 14, 2023
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