California Food Policy Advocates

For more than 25 years, CFPA has been the leading statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of low-income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food. We work to address the struggles that households face in putting food on the table, and the struggles that undermine the health and development of their children. We understand the importance of making school meals more accessible and available. The MealsCount project generated from conversations CFPA had with schools about challenges they face in making the most of an important school meal program.

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Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)

CEP is a program of the USDA that allows schools to serve meals free to all students, without having to collect paper or online applications. Students are identified as eligible based on their participation in other means tested programs, like CalFresh and Medicaid. Schools are able to maximize their reimbursement because when meals are served universally free, it is easier to adopt service models that increase student participation, like “breakfast after the bell.” Plus schools are guaranteed a reimbursement structure that is stable for four years at a time.


We’ve developed MealsCount because making sure all children have the food they need to learn, grow, and thrive is of the gravest importance. MealsCount was built to help schools and advocates make more informed decisions about how to maximize the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and, as a result, optimize the number of students served by universally free school meals and increase the amount of reimbursement being brought into the District. CEP is a sure way to secure and stabilize financial resources for school meals, but schools need help in making the program work at its best. MealsCount takes an innovative and proactive approach to optimizing CEP, by determining the best model of school grouping and calculating your district’s likely reimbursement.