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Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs include:

Head Start

All children enrolled in Head Start and participating in Child Nutrition Programs are automatically eligible for free meals without further application or eligibility determination if the following criteria are met:

  • The Head Start program must be located in and operated by the school/district
  • The school/district must maintain administrative control over the program

*In the case where the Head Start program does not meet the above criteria, the school/district may vend meals to the Head Start program. The Head Start program may apply to receive reimbursement for those meals through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) administered by the NYS Department of Health.

Migrant Education Program (MEP)

A child is considered categorically eligible if the child is identified as meeting the definition of migrant in section 1309 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, 20 U.S.C. 6399, by the State, regional, or local MEP director, coordinator, or local educational liaison. See the “acceptable methods for identifying children who are Other Source Categorically Eligible” section below for ways in which you may provide free meal benefits to students identified as Migrant. 

Runaway and Homeless Youth

A child is considered homeless if the child is identified as lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act by the SFA liaison; or residing in a homeless shelter by an official of the shelter.

  • All public school districts are required to appoint a homeless liaison. Children identified as homeless by the liaison are eligible for free meals. A list or e-mail from the Homeless Liaison that includes students’ names, effective date, and liaison signature must be retained on file to document eligibility for school year 2018-2019. The homeless family does not need to complete an application.
  • Homeless families may reside with another household and still be considered homeless. The host family may include the homeless family as household members on their application, but must also include any income from the homeless family. The homeless child’s eligibility status cannot convey eligibility to the other children in either family. Eligibility of the host family must be determined by household size and income.
  • Due to year-long eligibility, a change in household composition will not impact the eligibility determination for either the host family’s children or the homeless child. A child approved for free meal benefits and deemed homeless remains eligible for free meals for the entire school year.
  • Visit and click “Liaison List” on the toolbar to find the homeless liaison for your district.
Foster Children

A foster child is a child whose care and placement is the responsibility of a State or local welfare agency or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household. This applies only to foster children who are formally placed by the State welfare agency or court. It does not apply to informal arrangements, such as caretaker arrangements or to permanent guardianship placements, which may exist outside of or as a result of State or court based systems. A child may still be considered a foster child if placed with relatives provided the placement is made by the State or local foster care system or courts. The State must retain legal custody of the child --whether placed by a welfare agency or a court -- in order for a child to be considered categorically eligible for free meals.

  • A separate application is not needed for foster children. They are categorically eligible for free meals based on documentation received from an appropriate State or local agency indicating their status as a foster child.
  • The foster family may include the foster child as a household member. The foster child’s personal income must be included with the family income when processing the application. The foster child would be certified for free meals, and then the remainder of the household members would be certified for benefits based on household size (including the foster children) and income or other categorical eligibility information reported on the application.
  • A foster child remains eligible for free meals for the entire school year, even if he or she returns home to their family.
  • You can contact your county Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) for a list of foster children in your district/school.

Acceptable methods for identifying children who are Other Source Categorically Eligible include:

  • Submission of a household application that indicates “Other Source Categorical Eligibility” for one or more children;
  • A form letter from the Other Source Categorically Eligible agency to the household, which in turn, the household provides to the school;
  • Submission to the determining official of a list of Other Source Categorically Eligible children compiled by the SFA

*Note- Other Source Categorical Eligibility of a child does not convey eligibility to other children in the household. If the household of an Other Source Categorically Eligible child submits an application, the applicable programs must be indicated. With the exception of a foster child, the SFA official must contact the Other Source Categorically Eligible agency liaison to confirm that the children are eligible under one of these programs before free benefits are provided.

Last updated
June 5, 2019

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