The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a recently-implemented policy change to the federally-administered National School Lunch Program (NSLP). It allows schools and districts serving low-income populations to identify all students as eligible for free lunch, regardless of students’ individual circumstances. The purpose of the CEP is to expand meal access to students who attend low income schools, while at the same time reducing paperwork and streamlining the process of participating in the NSLP. An unintended consequence of the CEP is that it reduces the informational content of NSLP-based measures of student poverty because all students at CEP schools are classified as eligible for free lunch. This has important implications for school accountability and finance policies at all levels of government as these policies have become highly dependent on the use of free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) data to proxy for student disadvantage.
Citation: Cory Koedel, Stacey Preis (2019). The Community Eligibility Provision, Free and Reduced-Price Lunch, and Measurement of Poverty: Implications for Education Policy. CALDER Policy Brief No. 16