All schools participating in the federally assisted National School Lunch Program and/or School Breakfast Program must make free and reduced price meals available to all eligible children. All schools and institutions participating in the free milk option of the Special Milk Program must make free milk available to eligible children. No person shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under the Child Nutrition Programs [7 CFR 15.1].
The State Education Department annually issues this free and reduced price policy booklet to all SFAs to assist in the correct implementation of these program requirements.
The 2021-2022 free and reduced price policy booklet consists of:
- the Policy Statement;
- information regarding the approval of household applications;
- direct certification information;
- the income eligibility guidelines as issued by the United States Department of Agriculture:
- prototype public release;
- free and reduced price meal applications and instructions in English and Spanish;
- prototype parent letters regarding school meals, food substitutions for children with disabilities, and disclosure.
SFAs must have new certification documentation on file within the first 30 operating days of the school year. This applies to all schools, even those whose school year begins in July. Carryover of previous year’s eligibility from direct certification, categorical eligible and income applications is for up to 30 operating days of the new school year.
We recommend you immediately conduct the Direct Certification Matching Process (DCMP), then begin contacting families as soon as possible to obtain current eligibility data to ensure access to all children who qualify. This would also assist you in your efforts to provide information on free and reduced price eligible students on the Basic Educational Data System (BEDS) report in early October. As you are probably aware, BEDS data is used for a variety of funding formulas that will affect your school and community.
All eligibility determinations, including Direct Certification Matching Process (DCMP) lists, migrant/homeless lists, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and household applications, must be retained for three years plus the current year. If this documentation is lost, misplaced, damaged, etc., the SFA could lose reimbursement for free and reduced price meals. In addition, all SFA records and Program documentation must be kept on file for a period of 3 years after submission of the final claim for reimbursement for the fiscal year to which they pertain. However, if audit findings have not been resolved the records shall be retained beyond the 3 year period as long as required for resolution of the issues raised by the audit. Please be advised that these records must be readily retrievable or immediately available upon request.
The Policy Statement sets forth the conditions that must be followed for the SFA to maintain participation in the Breakfast, Lunch, or Special Milk Programs and must be officially adopted each year. Completion of the Certification of Acceptance (Attachments III or IV) acknowledges the SFA's adoption of this Policy Statement. The SFA must keep this signed Policy Statement on file with all Child Nutrition Program documents. The Policy Statement can be found here.
SFAs operating Provision 2 and/or the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), must amend the Policy Statement to include the requirements of operating a Special Provision Option (SPO). The amendment must be officially adopted along with the Policy Statement each year.
Certification of Acceptance
The Certification of Acceptance form must be completed annually (Attachment III or IV) and maintained on file for three years plus the current year. The Certification of Acceptance must be completed each year on the Child Nutrition Management System (CNMS) as part of the annual renewal process. The Certification of Acceptance requires the SFA to indicate the SFA’s reviewing official, verification official and hearing official. Submission of the Certification of Acceptance through the annual renewal process acknowledges the SFA’s adoption of the Policy Statement.
The information provided by families on the free and reduced price application should be used only for determining eligibility for meal or milk benefits and verification of eligibility. SFAs that plan to disclose children’s eligibility status for purposes other than determining and verifying free or reduced price eligibility must inform households of this potential disclosure. In some cases, the SFA must obtain consent of a parent or guardian prior to the disclosure. SFAs should refer to the Disclosure Chart.
For more information on the requirements for the disclosure of confidential student eligibility information, see Section 9(b)(6) of the NSLA, 42 U.S.C.1758(b)(6), regulations found at 7 CFR Part 245.6, and also memorandum, SP 16-2016, CACFP 06-2016, SFSP 10-2016: Disclosure Requirements for the Child Nutrition Programs, https://www.fns.usda.gov/disclosure-requirements-child-nutrition-programs-0 and guidance noted in Section 5 Confidentiality and Disclosure of the 2017 Edition of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals, Determining and Verifying Eligibility, found at https://www.fns.usda.gov/eligibility-manual-school-meals.