USDA Releases Proposed Rule to Lower CEP Threshold

March 22, 2023

On March 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed rule to expand access to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) by lowering the minimum identified student percentage (ISP) participation threshold from 40 percent to 25 percent. The comment period will be open for 45 days. Then the Department will have to release a final rule before this change can take place.

It is important to note that the Department does not have the authority to change the multiplier, so it will remain 1.6 - meaning some districts will continue to face financial barriers to participation. Authority to increase the multiplier lies solely with Congress. Expanding CEP is top AASA priority for school nutrition, and changing the multiplier is a critical change in enabling more districts to participate.

In addition to the proposed rule, USDA also announced grant opportunities for school meal programs:

  • $10 million for FY23 Team Nutrition Grants – To extend nutrition education beyond the cafeteria. Deadline to apply is May 22, 2023.
  • $50 million for School Food Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants - To foster innovation in the school food marketplace to get a wider variety of healthy, appealing foods into the marketplace and onto kids' lunch trays. Schools and other eligible organizations can apply for the challenge sub-grants later this year and are encouraged to check the USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentives website for updates.
  • $30 million for the Healthy Meals Incentives Grants for Small and/or Rural School Food Authorities to support their efforts to improve the nutritional quality of their school meals (up to $150,000 per grant). Applications will open in Spring of 2023.