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Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

School Food Service Directors/Managers
Frances N. O'Donnell, Coordinator
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications-Requests for Additional Information

We often receive questions from schools using electronic, scanned, and even paper applications asking if other additional information, which is not required to establish certification of eligibility for child nutrition programs (CNPs), may be requested of households when completing the application process.

The purpose of the application for free and reduced price school meals is to determine if a student’s household is eligible for school meal benefits based on income or categorical eligibility.  

Allowing LEAs to obtain data for other purposes on the application for free and reduced price school meals is intended to provide a mechanism for LEAs to share information with households on the availability of other non-meal benefits and may reduce paperwork burden on households.  An example of non-meal benefits includes items such as free school books or computers for students that are eligible for free or reduced price meals. If notice is provided to households with or on the application and written permission obtained, if necessary from parents or guardians, programs are permitted access to the otherwise confidential information for purposes which benefit the applicant household or student and do not create a barrier to CNP participation.

The CNP statutory and regulatory authorities codified in Section 9(b) (6) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 USC 1758(b) (6), and 7 CFR 245.6(a) (1) are reflected in the Eligibility Manual for School Meals.  As stated in this manual, “If schools or LEAs collect such information solely for non-NSLP, -SBP, or -SMP [Special Milk Program] purposes, the applications may not be labeled as applications for benefits under the school meals/milk programs or give any indication that such benefits are contingent upon a household returning the application.”

For example, LEAs may request applicants provide a student’s birth date on the application for free and reduced price school meals.  Because this additional data does not create a barrier to CNP participation, and creates a possible benefit to the student by improving the chances a positive match can be made if chosen for verification with Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for  Needy Families (TANF) or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)thereby minimizing the burden of completing an additional form(s), an LEA may request this additional information on the application. 

Since additional information as described above is not required by CNPs for a student’s certification of eligibility for free and reduce price school meals, an application, whether paper or electronic, must be considered complete even if the additional information is not provided.  Some electronic versions of free and reduced price applications request a student’s birth date as a required field and failure to provide that additional information results in the application’s categorization as “incomplete” or blocks the completion of the application process.  Those barriers to participation must be removed.  Any electronic version of a free and reduced price application requiring additional data must be updated so that the software no longer requires the additional data.

An LEA may not request applicants provide information regarding citizenship.  Citizenship information is not required for certification of eligibility to participate in the CNPs.  Requesting such information does not provide a benefit to the applicant or household and creates a perceived barrier to participation. 

We encourage schools to comply with this requirement as soon as possible.  If LEAs have a system which requires this additional information they must have a method to ensure that applications which are categorized as “incomplete” or otherwise blocked for this reason may still be certified as eligible if all the required information has been provided.

Please contact our office with any question s concerning this memo.

Questions and Answers

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at:, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)     email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.


For Nondiscrimination Statement translations, click here.

Los demás programas de asistencia nutricional del FNS, las agencias estatales y locales, y sus beneficiarios secundarios, deben publicar el siguiente Aviso de No Discriminación:

De conformidad con la Ley Federal de Derechos Civiles y los reglamentos y políticas de derechos civiles del Departamento de Agricultura de los EE. UU. (USDA, por sus siglas en ingles), se prohíbe que el USDA, sus agencias, oficinas, empleados e instituciones que participan o administran programas del USDA discriminen sobre la base de raza, color, nacionalidad, sexo, discapacidad, edad, o en represalia o venganza por actividades previas de derechos civiles en algún programa o actividad realizados o financiados por el USDA.

Las personas con discapacidades que necesiten medios alternativos para la comunicación de la información del programa (por ejemplo, sistema Braille, letras grandes, cintas de audio, lenguaje de seas americano, etc.), deben ponerse en contacto con la agencia (estatal o local) en la que solicitaron los beneficios. Las personas sordas, con dificultades de audición o discapacidades del habla pueden comunicarse con el USDA por medio del Federal Relay Service [Servicio Federal de Retransmisión] al (800) 877-8339. Además, la información del programa se puede proporcionar en otros idiomas.

Para presentar una denuncia de discriminación, complete el Formulario de Denuncia de Discriminación del Programa del USDA, (AD-3027) que está disponible en linea en: y en cualquier oficina del USDA, o bien escriba una carta dirigida al USDA e incluya en la carta toda la información solicitada en el formulario. Para solicitar una copia del formulario de denuncia, llame al (866) 632-9992. Haga llegar su formulario lleno o carta al USDA por:

(1)     correo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; o

(3)     correo electró

Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.