Learn about the many benefits of CEP for both students and schools.

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CEP Benefits Students & Schools
student and school food service staff prepare to deliver meals to the classroom

“Our mission is to support the achievement of all students by expanding access to healthy, tasty meals. By inviting all students to eat at no cost through community eligibility, we are removing barriers to school meal participation and fostering an environment where students eat together. Community eligibility benefits everyone — our school, our community, and most importantly, our students.” — Anneliese Tanner; Executive Director of Food Services and Warehouse Operations, Austin Independent School District, Texas

CEP Benefits Students

CEP promotes equity and reduces stigma. CEP eliminates the out-of-pocket costs for families and reduces the stigma or embarrassment some students may feel by participating in the meals program. CEP also eliminates school lunch shaming, as no student can be turned away or given an alternative meal from failure to pay. Moreover, when a student's nutritional needs are met, the child is more attentive in class and has better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems.

CEP reduces stress for families. Families with tight food budgets can rest assured that their child is getting nutritious meals at school, reducing financial strain at home. Many students live in households that don’t earn enough to make ends meet, yet earn too much to qualify for free or reduced-priced school meals. CEP ensures that those students don't have to worry about paying for meals either. In most CEP schools, families also do not have to worry about filling out and returning school meals applications each year

CEP fights hunger and improves student outcomes. A study by Johns Hopkins University found that students attending Maryland schools with CEP were nearly 3 times less likely to be food insecure, as compared to students attending a comparison district school – even after adjusting for race/ethnicity and education level of the adult. The study also found improved attendance rates in elementary and middle schools, improved grade 10 promotion rates, and higher school lunch participation rates in CEP schools. (Source)

CEP Benefits Schools

CEP eliminates unpaid meal debt. This is a HUGE benefit for many schools who face the challenge of unpaid school meal charges.

CEP reduces administrative burden. CEP eliminates school meals applications and reduces the burden of counting and claiming meals served to individual students. In CEP schools, school nutrition staff only have to count the total number of meals served. All of this allows school nutrition staff to focus on feeding kids and improving their meal service.

CEP improves school nutrition staff morale. Staff don't have to worry about having difficult conversations with students and/or parents about unpaid meal charges. They also don't have to turn a student away from eating, take additional items off a student's plate, or serve an alternative meal to kids who can't pay.

CEP can generate revenue for school nutrition budgets. Because every student can participate, CEP often increases the number of kids who eat school breakfast and lunch each day. This often generates additional revenue for the school nutrition budget, and allows for cost-saving bulk purchasing of meal ingredients/components. 

CEP makes it easier to serve meals in the classroom. With CEP, teachers only need to count the total number of meals served to students in their classroom. Without CEP, teachers will have to be trained to track the number of meals served to students who qualify for free meals, reduced-price meals, or “paid” meals, respectively. 

CEP supports student and staff safety during COVID-19. Under CEP, there is no more exchanging of money. CEP makes it easier to implement meals in the classroom, and keep kids at a distance from other classes.

Added Benefits of CEP for Schools During COVID-19

Especially during COVID-19, CEP can support school nutrition departments who are tasked with finding new ways to feed students. No school meals applications, no trying to figure out whether a student schooling from home qualifies for free meals, no exchanging of money, no turning a student away because they can't pay. For schools that qualify, adopting CEP makes sense in SY20-21.


Need help communicating these benefits to your school administrators? Use our customizable template letter/email to school administrators about adopting CEP in SY20-21. Download it, add in your school's details, and send!




CEP Talking Points for School Administrators

Prepare for conversations with school administrators about adopting or expanding CEP in the coming school year

Engaging Stakeholders
Implementation Support
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School Nutrition Staff