Orange County Public Schools announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved OCPS to serve all students, all school meals at no charge for the 2023-24 school year.
Snacks and supper are based on individual school qualifications, so parents should check the child’s school for participation details.
The program is called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). It was authorized by Congress as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. CEP aims to provide no-cost meals to students in eligible schools, eliminating the need to collect household applications to determine eligibility for the free and reduced school meals program.
While the move will surely benefit Orange County families, it is another reminder of the poor economic conditions in Orlando, even though the local political leadership has remained the same for years. The fact that there are so many families in need of assistance in every single OCPS school that all meals are now being provided to all students shows the current reality in Central Florida.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the Community Eligibility Provision 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 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).
OCPS said the implementation of this initiative minimizes stigma, reducing paperwork for school nutrition staff and families, and streamlines meal service operations. “When all students have easy access to healthy school meals, meal participation tends to increase, and more children can experience nutritional benefits that fuel their learning, growth and development,” OCPS stated.
CEP is a reimbursement alternative for eligible local educational agencies (LEAs) and schools participating in both the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP).
OCPS believes every student deserves access to healthy and nutritious meals regardless of socioeconomic status.