The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is determining final regulations over the expansion of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and stricter school nutrition standards and expects to release final rules in April 2024 on two important school meal proposals, one to expand free meals served to all students at high-poverty schools and the other to heighten nutrition guidance.

The first change, initially proposed in March 2023, would expand access to the CEP, which allows schools with high concentrations of low-income families to serve free breakfast and lunch without requiring an application for the benefit. The USDA’s proposal aims to lower the minimum threshold for a school or district’s CEP eligibility from 40% of enrolled students to 25%.

The 45-day comment period on the CEP expansion closed in May 2023.

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