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National School Lunch Program

Geographic Preference Option for the Procurement of Unprocessed Agricultural Products in Child Nutrition Programs

The 2008 Farm Bill amended the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to direct that the Secretary of Agriculture encourage institutions operating Child Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products.

Provisions of the law effective October 1, 2008 were initially implemented through policy memoranda and explanatory question and answer communications. A proposed rule was published April 19, 2010; USDA received 77 comments which were reviewed before they issued their final rule on this subject on April 22, 2011.

Competitive Procurement and Private Grants for School Food Programs

It has been brought to our attention that some schools may be applying for or participating in grant programs aimed at assisting schools with start-up and/or expansion, especially of the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The foundations sponsoring the grants are associated with companies that provide goods and services to the school meal programs. Review of these grant programs revealed that at least some contain a mandatory purchasing component, requiring recipients to purchase and use a vendor's specified product for a stipulated amount of time.

Applying Geographic Preferences in Procurements for the Child Nutrition Programs

This memorandum provides information on a provision of the recently enacted Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246) that applies to procurements in the Child Nutrition Programs.  Section 4302 of P.L. 110-246 amended section 9(j) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) to require the Secretary of Agriculture to encourage institutions operating the Child Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products. 

Universal Pre-K Programs (UPK)-Not Eligible for Automatic Eligibility for Free Meal Benefits

Section 3602-e of Education Law defines an "eligible child" for UPK programs as a child who resides within a UPK participating school district who is four years of age on or before December 1st or otherwise eligible to attend kindergarten the following school year.

UPK is a voluntary program open to all four year olds as defined above in the district. No preference can be given to children who are from families that are disadvantaged. Children must be selected on a random basis when there are more children that can be served in a given year.


We are often asked whether it is acceptable to offer condiments such as mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard with  school meals, since some condiments are high in salt, sugar or fat and they add to the cost of meals.

Clarification of the Policy on Consumption of Meal Components Outside of the Foodservice Area

This memorandum is intended to clarify two issues regarding meals offered in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). First, the memorandum clarifies the policy of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) regarding student consumption of certain lunch or breakfast items outside of the foodservice area and meal period. Second, it clarifies the requirement to offer whole grain-rich products in the NSLP and SBP.

Meal Items Outside the Foodservice Area

Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications-Requests for Additional Information

We often receive questions from schools using electronic, scanned, and even paper applications asking if other additional information, which is not required to establish certification of eligibility for child nutrition programs (CNPs), may be requested of households when completing the application process.

The purpose of the application for free and reduced price school meals is to determine if a student’s household is eligible for school meal benefits based on income or categorical eligibility.  

Use of the Pre-payment Systems in the Child Nutrition Programs

The use of prepayment systems is growing increasingly popular.  As more and more schools are providing this service, questions have again risen as to if and when it can be used.  Consequently, I have revised the December 2005 memo on the subject to address new concerns.  The systems are marketed to appeal to parents by offering the convenience of payments for school meals through on-line use of credit cards.


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.

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