Schools Can Sign Up for Community Eligibility to Ensure Students Receive Meals at No Cost

Schools Should Check Eligibility for CEP Program as soon as Possible

(OKLAHOMA CITY) – May 3, 2016 – In Oklahoma, 62 percent of public school children participate in the free and reduced-price meal program. Oklahoma schools in areas of high poverty have the opportunity to provide all students with breakfast and lunch at no charge, while potentially reducing school administrative costs.

“One in four children in Oklahoma has inconsistent access to food,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  “Hungry children cannot learn.  In fact, children struggling with hunger are 1.4 times more likely to repeat a grade. This is why the free and reduced-price meal program is so important.”

“If I don’t eat I sit down, I feel very hungry, and sometimes I fall asleep,” said Kori, a student who receives food from the Regional Food Bank.  “It’s because the hunger goes to my tummy and I feel lazy and it makes me fall asleep. Without food I wouldn’t learn anything because I would be so tired.”

There are two ways a student can qualify for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs:

  • Application – Parents return the application to the school demonstrating financial need.
  • Direct Certification – The child’s family is a recipient of: SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program); TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families); FDPIR (Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations) or the child has a status of being foster care, Head Start, homeless, runaway or migrant.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a tested and proven program that launched nationwide in 2014. If a school or school district demonstrates that 40 percent or more of the student body is directly certified for the School Meal program, the school can offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost to the students

For schools electing CEP, the application process for School Meal program is eliminated entirely. CEP benefits both schools and students by: decreasing administrative costs and time related to processing applications; enhancing efficiency by eliminating the need to collect payment; eliminating debt of unpaid meal charges; reducing stigma associated with eating School Meals and allowing for better integration of meals into the school day.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, 864 schools in 344 districts were eligible for CEP during the 2015-2016 school year. However, only 15 percent of eligible districts, and 21 percent of eligible schools, adopted the program. Oklahoma ranks 46th in the nation for district participation in CEP.

As of May 1, 2016 schools can begin electing to adopt CEP for the 2016-2017 school year by contacting the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Schools are encouraged to apply before the end of June.

Together, we can solve hunger.  For a complete list of eligible schools, please visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision-status-school-districts-and-schools-state. For more information visit http://1.usa.gov/1iP9FQI.

The Regional Food Bank is the largest private, domestic hunger-relief organization in the state of Oklahoma. Last fiscal year, the nonprofit distributed 49.9 million pounds of food and products through a network of more than 1,250 charitable feeding programs and schools in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Each week, the organization provides enough food to feed more than 116,000 hungry Oklahomans.

About the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is the state’s largest private, domestic hunger-relief organization and a member of Feeding America’s network of Food Banks.  The nonprofit provides enough food to feed more than 116,000 hungry Oklahomans each week through a network of more than 1,250 schools and charitable feeding programs in 53 central and western Oklahoma counties. Since its inception in 1980, the Regional Food Bank has distributed more than 600 million pounds of food to feed Oklahoma’s hungry.  For more information, visit http://www.regionalfoodbank.org; find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/regionalfoodbank or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rfbo.

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