According to information provided by the USDA, "The intent of the Community Eligibility Provision is to improve access to free school meals in eligible high poverty Local Educational Agencies and schools and to eliminate the administrative burden of collecting household applications."
According to Krista Davis, child nutrition director for Cleveland School District, "The state of Mississippi and the office of child nutrition in the Mississippi Department of Education over sees all of the USDA programs in Mississippi.
“They get notifications from the USDA, review it, and then send it to local agencies like the Cleveland School District to let them know what's available in the state of Mississippi. They piloted this project before making it available nationwide so we were aware of this in February or March of last year and had until April first to get our most current information in."
After a school qualifies, lunches and breakfasts are served free to all students and no household applications for free and reduced price meals are collected or certified.
Davis explained that in order for a school or group of schools to qualify they must have "an ISP of 62.5 percent or higher may be eligible to be reimbursed at the free meal rate for 100 percent of all meals served."
An ISP is the identified student percentage, which is determined by dividing the number of “identified students” as of a specified period of time by the number of “enrolled students” as of the same period of time and multiplying the quotient by 100.
"Identified students are those who received state public assistance. We received a certification list from the state and those students are families who received supplemental nutrition assistance. They automatically apply for the free lunches and breakfasts … We based our numbers off of the status of those students.
"The difference between the community eligibility provision and other provisions, which would affect the entire district, is that the USDA came up with this provision where you could qualify single schools for free breakfast and lunch, or you could combine groups of schools, or you could combine the whole district. We worked the numbers to get the most eligible schools as possible and had the state agency review it to determine the best outcome," said Davis.
The eligible schools with free breakfast and lunches are Cypress Parks Elementary, East Side High School, Nailor Elementary, Parks Elementary, Pearman Elementary, and D.M. Smith Middle School.
"We were able to basically add up all of their identified students and divide it by enrollment. In those six schools we were able to feed all students breakfast and lunch and get reimbursed back by the USDA 100 percent. This is good for four years and each year we can reapply and if we can identify more students at those schools," said Davis.
Schools that aren't participating this year will just go about it how it's always been.