The Wyoming Department of Education's Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) announced that they have submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service to extend the current Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) deadlines.

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CEPs are used by schools in the state to allow them to offer free or reduced school lunches to children without having to collect applications from individual students and are part of the National School Lunch Program.

In 2021, Freemont County School District 38 had the highest percentage of schools participating in the CEP at 89%, followed by FCSD 21 at 71.36%, the Carbon County School District 2 was the lowest at 6.2%, while the Natrona County School District was at 14.7%.

A total of 1,872 students were enrolled at CEP schools in 2021 according to data from the WDE.

According to a press release by the WDE, the extension of the deadlines is to allow school districts more time to collect the necessary data to participate in CEP for the upcoming school year.

The request to extend the CEP deadlines may help school districts decide whether or not to make the decision to participate in the CEP for the next four years.

According to the WDE, school districts have not collected the data to determine the election of CEP because of previous USDA waivers.

Linda Finnerty, Communications Director for the WDE, said that schools have been collecting data, but that an extended deadline will give them more time to provide data to the state.

The WDE also stated that the new waiver will provide enough time for districts to collect the necessary data to make the CEP determination though it is unclear why, if they weren't able to do it with previous waivers, another waiver will be different.

The WDE will provide more information and instructions to National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast (NSBP) sponsors on the new timelines of the waiver if it is approved.

According to the waiver submitted by the WDE on March 23, the state is requesting an extension of the deadline until Sept. 30, 2022 and will not incur any additional cost to the state or federal government.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the WDE has been submitting deadline extensions to the USDA for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program's Emergency Allotments and was recently approved for their April 2022 request.

The WDE has also submitted and been approved for a variety of other waiver extensions to the USDA, including for the Nationwide Meal Pattern, Pandemic EBT Programs, Child Nutrition Monitoring, and the Non-congregate Feeding in the Summer Food Service Program.

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