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Community Eligibility Provision Frequently Asked Questions


Common questions answered about the CEP meal program in schools.

​​I'm a parent with a child that previously qualified for free or reduced lunch. What happens now under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)?

  • Your child still receives free meals — 1 breakfast, 1 lunch each school day.
  • You need to fill out a new form called the "Family Household Survey" that will help the DOE collect critical information that helps with other programs dependent on the information previously collected in free/reduced lunch applications. These forms will be sent home by the school at the start of the school year for parents/guardians to complete.
  • You still have free bus service if you meet the distance requirements.

My child did not qualify for free or reduced lunch before. What happens now?

  • Your child will receive two (2) free meals each school day.
  • We ask that you fill out the new "Family Household Survey" form that will allow us to make sure we have the right information for other programs.
  • You no longer have to worry about negative balances and having to make payments at school, unless your child purchases additional meals or ala carte items.
  • You will receive free bus service if you meet the distance requirements for the duration of the pilot program.

What happens if my child is part of the CEP program and transfers to another school?

  • The CEP program is specific to the participating schools.
  • The CEP program designation does not transfer with the student.
  • The family must apply using the traditional free/reduced price lunch application at the new school if the school is not part of CEP.

Why does the department need parents to fill out the Family Household Survey form?

The Department currently relies on free and reduced price lunch data for other qualified benefits. The alternate data collection form clears the way for additional funding for your child's school and scholarship opportunities to participate in school programs.​

Why did the DOE pilot this program?

CEP, under the US Department of Agriculture, has been successfully implemented in a number of school districts around the country. The HIDOE analyzed the data to determine whether the program made sense in Hawaii before expanding the program.

Why would this program not expand further or be extended?

The Department plans to look at a range of costs and benefits associated with the program. This includes financial and administrative costs and savings and impact on schools and students.

How does the CEP program work?

A school, district or group of schools can be placed together in a CEP program as long as 40 percent of their students – individually or collectively – meet the USDA definition of Identified Students (predominantly Directly Certified students).  The whole definition of Identified Students is those students who qualify for free meals without the submission of a meal application and this includes several categories of students. However, the USDA will only pay for 1.6 times the number of students at the free lunch reimbursement rate. So at 40 percent the USDA will pay for 64 percent of the students at the free reimbursement rate. At 62 percent the USDA will pay the free reimbursement rate for all students in a school or grouping.

For Hawaii, that means we will receive $3.67 for every meal served. The average cost of a meal at public schools is $5.51. This gives the state $1.84 to make up on a free meal.

Without CEP, the USDA reimburses Hawaii $0.43 for a paid meal and the schools charge $2.50, for a total of $2.93. Under CEP, the school will not charge the paid student and the USDA will reimburse the state.

Why were the particular schools in the pilot chosen?

The Department chose to look at how the program would impact a close grouping of schools where potentially siblings at different schools would be part of the study. Molokai gave the unique opportunity for HIDOE to look vertically at the elementary, middle and high school levels while also being limited in isolation by geography. The two other elementary schools allowed the Department to study the effects on areas of high Identified Students in different locations (Hawaii Island, Oahu).  The 23 additional schools added to the pilot for 2016-17 were selected as either individual schools or groups of schools (e.g. complex areas) that serve a significant proportion of disadvantaged families. Because the selection of schools spans all major islands, we will be able to better understanding of the impact of this provision on a broader representation of our schools.

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