Project Bread approves of Biden Administration's proposal to expand access to healthy school meals

Project Bread

Policy Work

Project Bread approves of Biden Administration's proposal to expand access to healthy school meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule regarding the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) that would help more students receive free school meals. Project Bread applauds the Biden Administration’s dedication to expanding food access for students and families, and we urge policymakers to take the necessary actions that would put universal school meals in reach for more kids.

About the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

Congress’ opportunity to expand food access for families in MA

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in under-resourced areas. It allows schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students without burdening families and school employees with added paperwork. 

Currently, only schools with 40% or more students qualifying for free school meals can utilize CEP. 

This qualifying measurement is referred to as the Identified Student Percentage (ISP) and indicates the percentage of students that is automatically eligible for free school meals because of their participation in another government program, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or in some states, like Massachusetts, Medicaid.

Schools can decide to apply for CEP so that all students can receive free meals, but they won’t receive full reimbursement for the cost of meals provided to all students. The percent of meals they will be reimbursed for at the full “free” rate is determined by multiplying the school’s ISP by 1.6, which is the current multiplier. The remaining meals provided free to students will be reimbursed at the much lower “paid” rate.

"Having Barnstable on the CEP program has been important for students and families. Many of our families are struggling in silence and lifting the burden of paying for meals makes school breakfast and lunch an even playing field for all our students. I feel CEP continues to allow Food Services to focus on serving fresh quality meals to our students at no cost.“ - Dave Badot, District Food and Nutritional Director, Barnstable Public Schools

How CEP would change under the Biden Administration’s proposed rule

The eligibility threshold for schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) would decrease from 40% to 25%. This means if 25% (or more) of students qualify for free school meals, the school is eligible for CEP. If the school chooses to enroll in CEP, all students at the school would receive free school meals.

However, there are schools that fall in the 25%-39% range that won’t be able to enroll in CEP because the current multiplier, 1.6, makes it financially unviable. In other words, they would not be receiving enough of the “free” rate reimbursement for meals to make the option make financial sense for them.

families need healthy school meals for all

Our lawmakers can take action to continue to improve CEP and implement Healthy Schools Meals for All

Rep. Morgan McGarvey has introduced the School Meals Expansion Act (H.R. 2567) in Congress, which would improve the CEP equation by increasing the multiplier to 2.5.

At this rate, more schools would be financially able to utilize and benefit from CEP. We urge our Massachusetts congressional delegation to cosponsor this bill and urge Congress to swiftly pass this bill so that more school nutrition programs are able to make CEP work and keep up with inflation and the elevated cost of food.

Proposals like the CEP rule and the School Meals Expansion Act make it clear that our policymakers care deeply about supporting the wellbeing of Massachusetts families.

What families and children really need, and what Project Bread continues to advocate for, is the passage of Healthy School Meals for All. By doing so, the health of an entire generation can be ensured, and the stigma against school meals will become obsolete.

Project Bread's Plans to Support the Proposed CEP Rule

Improving school meal access with advocacy

Project Bread is leading the campaign to make free school meals for all permanent in Massachusetts, as we see that as the best path forward for solving childhood hunger.

We’re asking that Congress raise the multiplier to 2.5 so that it can be more financially viable for CEP-eligible schools to utilize the program.

  • Project Bread submitted formal comments to USDA on the proposed CEP rule. Read our comments


We support school’s SNAP outreach to their students’ families to increase the number of students eligible for free school meals, increasing their school’s ISP and therefore increasing their chance to adopt CEP by making it more financially viable.

  • Take action with us today and urge our state legislature to include funding to make School Meals for All permanent in the FY24 state budget. Act Now 
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