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Community eligibility helps keep children fed in Alabama


Arise’s Celida Soto Garcia explains how the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) helps more than 450 high-poverty schools across Alabama offer breakfast and lunch to students at no charge. Now is the time to contact school superintendents and urge them to opt into CEP if their districts are eligible to participate.

A full transcript can be found below the video.

Hi. My name is Celida Soto Garcia, hunger policy advocate with Alabama Arise. Today I hope to share a few steps to make sure that children and families have ample food nutrition options this summer and during the upcoming school year.

I would also like to encourage parents and school administrators to join me in promoting the Community Eligibility Provision as dependable food and nutrition source during really uncertain times.

Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP for short, is a federal program that allows more than 450 high-poverty schools across Alabama to offer breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. CEP reduces paperwork for schools so they can focus on providing healthy meals to help students learn and thrive.

CEP increases school meal participation by removing stigmas that are typically associated with having to pay for lunch and possibly not having the funds to do so that day. It maximizes federal reimbursement to schools with the highest rates of attending students living in low-income households.

CEP eliminates unpaid school meal fees and makes it easier to implement innovative service models such as breakfast in the classroom or some hearty snacks throughout the day.

Most notably, CEP saved the day in the early stages of the pandemic. When not participating, schools have to grapple with determining eligibility criteria before serving meals to families in need throughout the pandemic. Schools that had opted into CEP were best prepared to consistently meet food and nutrition needs. When so much more was uncertain for CEP schools, addressing hunger was a no-brainer, and school meals were made available to every child in need.

The pandemic taught us many lessons. Most notably, we learned that reliable sources of food and nutrition are vital to extending a sense of support and stability to communities. Temporary school meal waivers such as Seamless Summer Option, or SSO for short, and Summer Food Service Program, or SFP for short, strengthen the safety net during uncertain times. But these programs are ending soon. CEP offers a more dependable and enduring system for serving school meals to all children at no cost to families.

Also, students attending schools that opted into CEP were automatically eligible to receive Pandemic EBT. CEP facilitated feeding families during trying times, and it continues to be the most dependable support for ensuring all children receive the nutrition they need to survive and to thrive.

Now is the time to contact your local school superintendents and urge them to opt into the Community Eligibility Provision to secure a reliable source of food and nutrition for Alabama’s children.

Lastly, an urgent message to parents. Ending school meal waivers means that the parents and caregivers should ask your school administrator if your students school is adopting CEP in 2022-2023. If not, you will need to complete a school meal application for free or reduced-price meals as soon as possible. Thank you.

Feel free to submit any questions to info@HungerFreeAlabama.org or call 334-832-9060.