Community eligibility provision or CEP allows low-income schools and school districts to secure free lunch for their entire student body is at least 40% verified as low income. CEP removes the administrative burden of schools manually collecting household applications to determine eligibility for school meals. In addition, community eligibility provision removes the prevalent stigma around receiving free meals or incurring unpaid lunch bills, as well as removes the potential for administrative errors. 
To be eligible for community eligibility provision, a school, group of schools within a district, or a school district must have at least 40% identified students or identified student percentage (ISP) out of their total student enrollment. High-poverty school districts with low direct certification rates will find that their identified student percentage does not accurately reflect poverty within the student population.  By improving direct certification, these school districts may qualify for community eligibility provision or find it more financially viable to choose community eligibility provision, making their meals programs less complicated and eliminating barriers to participation for numerous low-income, hungry children.
Challenges with Community Eligibility Provision
- Lunch Shaming
- Unpaid School Bills
- Parents don’t submit the needed paperwork because they have immigration-related concerns, or their financial situations have changed since the start of the year
- Small districts or small schools
- Missing data
- Weak direct certification system or strategy
- No automated or digital record keeping
- Not enough eligible schools (small student count, etc.)
Benefits of Community Eligibility Provision
- Students who need free breakfast and lunch are receiving them
- No forms need to be collected
- No more lunch shaming
- Schools with a small number of students can be grouped with other schools
- Maximize E-rate funding
- Schools receive a higher reimbursement rate for each meal served under CEP than they would under the traditional meal program
- Improves participation in school meal programs
- Reduces burdens on low-income families while better providing for high-poverty communities
- Reduces administrative paperwork
By putting our heads together, eScholar was able to create a solution that streamlines two vital components to student success in school and beyond, direct certification and community eligibility provision. eScholar DirectMatch enables users to match student data with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Foster, Homeless, Migrant and Direct Certification Extended files using the solution’s combination of deterministic, probabilistic, and other powerful matching algorithms.
With a powerful solution like eScholar DirectMatch, states can report on accurate counts and improve their direct certification, as well as group school districts and schools to reach the required 40% ISP–all seamlessly and in one user-friendly interface. Eliminating school meal applications and ensuring that all students are receiving free meals that will allow them to focus on what matters was the driving force and main priority for the eScholar DirectMatch team.
If you’re interested in learning more about how eScholar DirectMatch can help with getting your community eligibility provision submissions started, get in touch with our team below!