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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

Summer Food Service Program Sponsors
Paula Tyner-Doyle, Coordinator
Friday, November 23, 2012
Determining Area Eligibility Based on School Data

This memorandum provides guidance on using school data when determining area eligibility for the purpose of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in instances where school attendance areas may not accurately reflect the population of the school for which eligibility data is being used.

National School Lunch Program (NSLP) free and reduced price meal data may be used to determine SFSP site eligibility. However, when children in the public school system regularly attend schools outside a designated attendance area, the effective use of school data to determine site eligibility for free and reduced price meals in a school is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the children living in the attendance area of the school.

In some school systems, children are assigned to schools outside of their neighborhood in order to achieve racial and economic diversity in the schools. This is often referred to as “busing.” In other school districts, not all children are assigned to a specific school, but instead may choose the school within the school district that they wish to attend. This practice is often referred to as “school choice.” There are also charter and private schools that draw students from multiple areas. “Busing” and “school choice” polices, as well as other specialty cases, may result in school data that does not accurately reflect the economic conditions in the surrounding area.

In school districts where busing or school choice policies are in place, if the site is located in the school which data is pulled, SFSP sponsors may always rely on the NSLP free and reduced price meal data for that individual school. Additionally, where busing or school choice policies are in place, but school attendance areas are still defined, school and non-school site eligibility may be determined based on the enrollment or attendance data obtained for:

  • The school the children attend, or
  • The school the children would have attended (i.e., the neighborhood school where the children live), were it not for the school’s busing or school choice policy.

SFSP sponsors may determine a site to be area eligible under the second option described above, only if the school food authority (SFA) is able to document the percentage of children eligible for free and reduced price meals at each school before and after students are reassigned. The same method of determining site eligibility must be used for all sites participating under a particular Program sponsor to avoid duplicate counting.

If the school district does not have defined school attendance areas, the use of school data is not permitted for non-school sites. In this case, census data must be used to determine area eligibility for the SFSP. Please note that census data may be used as a first choice for determining area eligibility for the SFSP, rather using the options described above, even if school attendance areas are defined.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Program information may be made available in languages other than English. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication to obtain program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language), should contact the responsible state or local agency that administers the program or USDA’s TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TTY) or contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.

To file a program discrimination complaint, a Complainant should complete a Form AD-3027, USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form which can be obtained online at:, from any USDA office, by calling (866) 632-9992, or by writing a letter addressed to USDA. The letter must contain the complainant’s name, address, telephone number, and a written description of the alleged discriminatory action in sufficient detail to inform the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (ASCR) about the nature and date of an alleged civil rights violation. The completed AD-3027 form or letter must be submitted 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; or
  2. fax:
    (833) 256-1665 or (202) 690-7442; or
  3. email:

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

Click here for Nondiscrimination Statement translations.