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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
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Verification for Cause in the Child Nutrition Programs

Recently, concerns have been raised about school employees allegedly misrepresenting their incomes on applications to receive free or reduced price school meals for their children.  As a result, USDA has been asked if a local education agency (LEA) may use the salary information of their own employees, maintained for business purposes, as a tool to implement verification for cause and help ensure the integrity of free and reduced price certifications.  This memorandum clarifies the use of verification for cause by LEAs in this manner..

Section 9(b)(3) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 USC 1758(b)(3), and  regulations on eligibility for free and reduced price meals in participating schools, at 7 CFR 245.6a, establish requirements for LEAs in conducting verification of the information provided on approved applications.  In general, LEAs must annually verify a sample of approved applications which is typically three percent of applications approved on the basis of income.  The required verification sample size may not be increased or decreased by an LEA.

In addition to the required verification of a specified sample of approved applications, regulations at 7 CFR 245.6a(c)(7) require that an LEA “must verify any questionable application and should, on a case-by-case basis, verify any application for cause …when the [school] is aware of additional income or persons in the household.”  In addition, regulations, at 7 CFR 245.6a(c)(1)(ii), require that an LEA must first complete the certification process – reviewing an application for free or reduced price meals and  notifying a household of the child’s free or reduced price status – prior to conducting verification.

LEAs can use verification for cause to review approved applications for free or reduced price meals when known or available information indicates school employees may have misrepresented household income on their applications to receive free or reduced price meals for their children.  USDA recommends that the LEA consult with its legal counsel in establishing the parameters of verification for cause for school employees.

Verification for cause must not be used to automatically verify the households of all school employees whose children are certified for free or reduced price meals.  However, from among the list of children approved for free or reduced price meals, an LEA could identify children of school employees and use LEA salary information available to them to identify questionable applications and then conduct verifications for cause on those questionable applications.

Remember that any verification for cause conducted by the LEA is separate from the verification sample required by the NSLA and program regulations, and may be conducted at any time during the school year.  LEAs must also follow the confidentiality, notice and appeal procedures required in 7 CFR 245.6a when conducting any type of verification.  Under the regulatory procedures, any modifications to a student’s eligibility status cannot occur until the verification process, including any appeal, is complete.  More information about the verification process is available in Part 8D of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals (October 2011).

USDA supports use of verification for cause where appropriate as a method for LEAs to address integrity concerns.  We strongly encourage LEAs and their legal counsel to consult with us prior to undertaking verification for cause where concerns with employee misrepresentation of information on an income eligibility application have been raised.  We want to ensure that LEAs balance administrative requirements and integrity with access to free and reduced price meals for eligible children.  We must report any situations of suspected fraud to the Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General at 800-424-9121.


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.