ATTENTION CO-OP DIRECTORS, CHILD NUTRITION DIRECTORS
The purpose of this memo is to provide information on each special provision option available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to assist school districts in making informed decisions about the programs available. Districts choosing to investigate the available special provisions for possible use in the feeding of children at no charge to the household should contact the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), Child Nutrition Unit (CNU) to discuss the options available. Technical assistance will be provided to each district on an individual basis to determine which special provision option, if any, would benefit both the students and the district. Many schools in Arkansas are using Provision 2 (P2) or Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) to feed students at no charge to the household.
USDA offers four special provisions for the feeding of students: Provision 1, Provision 2, Provision 3, and the Community Eligibility Provision. Provision 1 provides meals at no charge for most of the students in the district. Provision 2, 3, and CEP provide an opportunity for students to receive two meals (breakfast and lunch) at no charge to the household.
Provision 1 - Free eligibility is certified for two years. Schools must have at least 80% of the children enrolled in the district eligible for free or reduced lunch prices. At the point of service, students are counted as free, reduced or paid for the two year period. There is no obligation for a school district to provide meals at no charge to students who do not qualify for free meals.
Provision 2 – This is a four year cycle with the first year considered the “base year”. During the base year student eligibility status is determined in the same manner as regular pricing schools (Free and Reduced Meal Applications, Direct Certification, Categorically eligible). During the base year, meals are served and counted at the point of service by eligibility category using the current method. All students are provided meals at no charge to the household; however the meals are claimed at Free, Reduced, and Paid based on the actual meal participation.
During the next three years, no new student eligibility determinations are made and meal counts at the point of service are now based on free, reduced, or paid categories. Claiming percentages are determined during the base year and applied for the three (3) years following implementation. Federal reimbursement is determined by multiplying the claim rate and the total number of meals served each month.
Districts may apply for four (4) year extensions utilizing the same claiming rates if the economic conditions of the area have not changed. If economic conditions worsen, the district may choose to establish a new base year, move to another provision, or return to taking applications. The district does not have to wait until the end of the four year cycle to make that change.
Districts are required to reimburse the child nutrition program for a minimum cost differential (income the program would have received for reduced price or paid meals served to students at no charge). The cost differential calculation will be provided by ADE, CNU. Additional money may be necessary if the federal reimbursement does not cover all expenses. These monies must come from non-Federal funds. Currently, NSLA (National School Lunch Act) funds can be used to offset the cost of the program. These monies are not loans to the program and cannot be repaid to the district.
Provision 3 – In provision 3, a base year is established using student meal eligibility determination and meal counts by category. Districts receive the same level of federal funding and commodity assistance, adjusted to reflect changes in enrollment and inflation, for the next four (4) years. Schools electing this alternative must pay the minimum difference between the Federal reimbursement and the cost of providing all student meals at no charge to the child nutrition program from non-Federal funds (Cost differential). Additional money may be necessary if the federal reimbursement does not cover all expenses. These monies are not loans to the program and cannot be repaid to the district.
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) – School districts report the number of students enrolled and those considered “identified” on April 1st of the school year preceding adoption. Identified students are those certified as free eligible based on Direct Certification lists, living in the same household as a student on the Direct Certification list, or students identified on a list as other categorically eligible (homeless, migrant, foster, runaway, Head Start or Even Start). Schools with a minimum of 40% of the student enrollment designated as Identified Students are eligible to participate in CEP. Meals are counted at the point of service and claimed for reimbursement based on the formula provided by USDA. The claiming percentage will be sent directly to the school district by ADE, CNU. Students are fed at no charge to the household. If the federal reimbursement received is not sufficient to maintain the financial solvency of the child nutrition program, it will be necessary for the school district to support the child nutrition program through the use of non-Federal funds. Additional money may be necessary if the federal reimbursement does not cover all expenses. These monies are not loans to the program and cannot be repaid to the district.
For districts choosing to participate in any of these provisions, ADE, CNU will validate student data. The validated data will be used to determine claiming rates.
Additional information is available through ADE, CNU. Contact the district’s Area Specialist, Donna Ratliff, or Susie Ward at 501-324-9502.
Resources: School Meals
Community Eligibility Website and Resource Center