By Tammy Moore Teague
Many parents within the Mansfield School District have inquired about a neighboring school’s no cost meal policy, and wonder why their children aren’t receiving the same option. The Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, is the program which Hackett Schools have implemented and provide meals at no cost to all students. Mansfield Schools, however, are ineligible for this program.
According to the USDA Food and Nutrition website: “The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
To be eligible schools must meet a minimum level (40%) of identified students for free meals in the year prior to implementing the CEP. The bottom line is that Mansfield Schools does not reach that percentage threshold of eligible students and therefore ineligible to participate.
Board President Rick Nicodemus said “We just need to get our participation up and get kids eating. We need to make this better.” School Superintendent, Robert Ross, indicated that he will continue to work with Food Service Director, Sonia Norris, and kitchen managers to find ways to increase participation and ways to cut costs.