DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA – COMMUNITY ELIGIBILITY OPTION
The District of Columbia was awarded the opportunity to participate in a new alternative to the traditional meal application process associated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast (SBP) programs beginning school year 2012-2013. This alternative is referred to as the Community Eligibility Option (CEO). This option is among the reforms mandated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which phased in the streamlined process over three years. The Option was offered to schools in all states beginning School Year 2014-15. This option makes it easier for eligible children in low-income communities to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.
Community eligibility alleviates the burden on families by eliminating household applications, while helping schools reduce costs associated with collecting and processing those applications.
Under the CEO provision, schools are required to offer both breakfast and lunch. Eligible schools under this provision will be able to count and claim meals without having to conduct the normal free and reduced price application process. All students will be able to walk through the serving line and receive a free breakfast and lunch without being charged for meals at those schools electing to participate in the CEO option.
Schools that participate in CEO will no longer be required to collect Free and Reduced Price School Meals Family Applications. Meals will still need to be counted at the Point of Service (POS) but just total meals will need to be recorded, not meals by category.
Schools with an identified student (direct certified, homeless, or foster care) population of 40% or more according to data reported in the District of Columbia Direct Certification System report, via the State Agency Homeless Coordinator and the Department of Child and Family Services as of April 1 each year will be eligible to participate.
How does the CEO program work?
Each Spring on April 1 the State Agency will review the following data for every school in each School Food Authority (SFA); identified student population and total enrollment. This data will then be used to determine if there is at least one school in the SFA that has an identified student population of 40% or higher therefore making the school eligible to participate in the CEO program. School Food Authorities will be notified by May 1 of each year if they have at least one (1) school that is eligible to participate in CEO in the upcoming school year.
What does participation in CEO mean?
This means that the School Food Authority chooses to have some or all of the schools under its authority participate in CEO in the upcoming school year. Those schools chosen to participate in CEO will not collect ANY meal applications for the upcoming school year. Instead they will serve all breakfast and lunch meals to their students for free. Meals will still be counted at the point of service but just total meals will need to be recorded and claimed, not meals by individual student eligibility category.
What does this mean for schools?
School Food Authorities apply to participate in the CEO by school (if there is more than one) on the annual application.
Schools will be able to use the CEO percentage for four (4) years.
Schools will no longer have to collect meal applications for those years on CEO.
Schools that do not collect meal applications will no longer have to conduct verification.
If a schools’ identified student percentage goes up from one year to the next, the school has the choice to use the new higher percentage in the upcoming school year.
If a schools’ identified student percentage goes down from one year to the next, the school does not have to use the lower percentage and can retain their higher initial percentage.