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According to 7 CFR 245.6(d), local school officials may complete an application for a child known to be eligible for meal benefits if, after household applications have been disseminated, the household has not applied. This option is intended for limited use in individual situations and must not be used to make eligibility determinations for categories or groups of children. Documented prior efforts must be made by the SFA to obtain a completed application from the parent or guardian.

This limited use option acknowledges the various reasons that a family may fail to apply for free or reduced price meals, such as lack of understanding, fear of authority, alien status, substance abuse, etc.

When exercising this option, the school official must complete the application on behalf of the child based on the household size and income information or Other Source Categorical Eligibility status known to the official and must notify the household that their child has been certified to receive free or reduced price benefits.  The source of the information used by the school official to determine eligibility must be noted on the application. Names of household members, the last four digits of the Social Security Number, and the signature of an adult household member are not required. These applications are excluded from verification.

This option must be used judiciously and only after repeated efforts to obtain applications from families have been unsuccessful.  It is to be used on an individual basis and must not be used to provide eligibility determinations for large numbers of students.  It also may not be used when family income is above the eligibility guidelines, even though the children are coming to school without a meal or money.  Family economic status must remain the criterion for administratively making the decision to provide the student access to free or reduced price meals.

Reimbursement funds will be reclaimed for improper use of administrative prerogative.

Eligible Households that Have Not Applied- Questions and Answers

1. Can a student be approved for free or reduced price meals without an application from the parent or guardian?

Yes.  Under special circumstances, a school official may use administrative prerogative and fill out an application for a student whom they have reason to believe would be eligible if the household were to apply.  However, the school must first attempt to obtain an application from the household. This prerogative should not be indiscriminately used to claim ineligible students for free meals or to generate aid for other federal programs.

2. How can a school show that attempts have been made to obtain the application from the household?

Copies of mailings to the household and documentation of conversations with the parent/guardian or a responsible adult in the household must be kept on file. An administrator cannot arbitrarily qualify students from families who did not reapply from the prior year.

3. If the parent/guardian of the student cannot be reached or communicated with due to language barriers, etc., who may be contacted for household information?

An employer, a Social Service official, immigration official, or a relative suggested by either the student or the student's teacher may be contacted to urge the household to apply.

4. Is there a specific time-period that the school must allow to pass before attempts to obtain an application are deemed unsuccessful?

No specific time-period is required.  The process should be facilitated as quickly as possible so that the student is not going without meals in school.

5. Can an administrative prerogative be implemented during the period of time in which the school is attempting to obtain an application from the household?

If the school has reason to believe that the student is going without meals in school on a regular basis due to financial need, the school may implement an administrative prerogative immediately. 

6. Can a school official simply write a note to the food service manager to add a student's name to the list of eligible students?

No.  The school official must complete an application that contains the name of the student, the household size, an estimated family income, and a signature of the school official.  The source of information must be noted on the application.

7. How should the school tell the student and the household that the student would have access to free meals in the school cafeteria?

The household must be informed of the decision via phone, correspondence, or in person.  The student may be told by the teacher, school nurse, or other school official.

8. Is an application completed by a school official handled in the same way as those submitted by households?

Yes.  Like other applications, it must be counted for purposes of the claim for reimbursement and retrievable by building during a review.  However, the application should not be included in the verification process.

9. Can the administrative prerogative be implemented for families or groups of students who appear to be lacking proper nutrition?

No.  Applications must be completed on an individual basis.

10. Can an application be completed for a student who appears to be lacking proper nourishment, if the household has indicated that it is not eligible for benefits?

No. An application can only be completed for students who appear to be missing meals for reasons of financial need.  Other problems occurring in a household that may result in poor eating habits, but are not a reflection of family economic status, should not be resolved by this measure.

Last updated
June 4, 2019

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.


Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.

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.