COAL TOWNSHIP — This upcoming school year, all students in the Shamokin Area School District will receive free breakfast and lunch.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education, under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), approved the move. The CEP is a reimbursement option for schools in high poverty areas.

“We are happy to report that every child is now going to be able to get a breakfast and lunch at no cost,” said Superintendent Chris Venna in an email to The News-Item. “This will result in an increase in our breakfast and lunch participation among students and will provide all of our students with access to nutritious meals.”

According to the United States Department of Agriculture website, the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) 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 that adopt CEP 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).

“CEP is a non-cost meal provided to all students,” Shamokin Area School District business manager and federal programs manager Karen Colangelo said in an email.

She went on to explain how the district has the numbers to qualifiy for the program.

“There are two different percentages for our district. The percent of economically disadvantaged is 72 percent. For the CEP, we must use the identified student percentage (ISP). The ISP includes only the direct certification applicants. To qualify for the program, the district must meet a 40 percent threshold. District ISP is 59.37 percent. The multiplier is 1.6 which makes the Free Claiming Percentage 94.99 percent.”

“More importantly, our children will receive nourishing meals for breakfast and lunch and be energized and ready to learn and grow,” Colangelo said. “Our district is excited to be participating in the program and is presently preparing for its rollout. Additional information will be shared with our families as the school year approaches through the website and Back to School Night presentations.”

According to Colangelo, the district began pursuing approval of CEP in March for the 2018-19 school year. This program permits the district to provide a free breakfast and free lunch to all students. For our parents, it eliminates the need to complete a household application for free or reduced meals and creates ‘no worry’ about lunch accounts for children.

All students in the district are eligible and no paperwork needs to be filled out by their families.

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