The Eligibility Manual for School Meals provides comprehensive information on the Federal requirements, policies, and procedures for establishing eligibility in USDA School Nutrition Programs. It is intended to help State and School Food Authorities (SFAs) accurately determine, certify, and verify children’s eligibility for free and reduced price school meals and free milk.
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
For those SFAs operating as a Mixed District with the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), the Free and Reduced Price Meal Application above has been modified to collect information for students attending CEP schools and non-CEP schools. Student data for those attending CEP schools must be kept separate from those attending non-CEP schools. For those SFAs operating CEP District-Wide, please visit the CEP webpage for specific program information, including the DPI Alternate Household Income Form used for collecting income information for Title 1, SAGE (AGR), etc.
Special Milk Program (SMP)
Free milk application materials for SFAs operating the SMP Pricing with Free Milk Option can be found on the SMP Pricing with Free Milk Option webpage.
Application materials from previous years can be found on the Past Application Materials web page.
Visit the Direct Certification webpage to run Direct Certification for your school.
If the SFA uses a web based application, the web based vendor must be approved by DPI prior to distribution of the application to households. The approved vendor listing is updated annually. As a reminder, the application for the 2017-2018 school cannot be posted or distributed prior to July 1, 2017.
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Income Eligibility Guidelines
The Income Eligibility Guidelines for School Year 2017-18 are for school staff only and are used in the processing of Free and Reduced-Price Meal Applications. SFAs utilizing a software system for approval of applications should confirm the system uses the current guidelines.
Optional Notification Letters
Special Milk Program (SMP)
Transfer and Carryover
Fair Hearing Procedures
Per the Permanent Agreement/Policy Statement that each school food authority (SFA) agrees to when completing the online contract with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI)-School Nutrition Team (SNT), each local educational agency (LEA) of a school participating in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program agrees to establish a hearing procedure that meets all of the requirements of USDA regulations 7 CFR 245.7. The Fair Hearing Procedure should be used when households appeal either a determination of benefits (the decision made by the LEA with respect to the households free and reduced price meal application) or a decision based on the verification of benefits (the continuation of benefits).
Training Resources for Approval of Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications (Visual aids to assist SFAs in processing applications)
If the SFA exercises the option to provide the opportunity to waive or subsidize other district fees (e.g., registration, athletic fees, technology fees, etc.) based on a student’s free or reduced price meal benefit status, the SFA must provide the Sharing Information with Other Programs form to all recipients as determined through an application as well as Direct Certification. SFAs must allow households to limit consent to only those programs they wish to share information. SFAs are not allowed to have a blanket fee waiver. Additional benefits outside of the meal benefit cannot be provided until a signed form is returned to the SFA allowing the information to be shared. Alternatively, SFAs can have parents/guardians self-disclose eligibility information by providing a copy of their application approval letter to the program offering fee waivers or subsidized fees. Another option is for fee waivers and subsidized fees to be handled outside of the food service department by an alternate data collection method.
As part of an effort to decrease certification error during the eligibility determination process, Section 304 of the 2010 HHFKA requires that certain local education agencies (LEAs) conduct a second, independent review of applications for free and reduced price meal benefits before eligibility determinations are made.
Beginning in School Year (SY) 2014-2015, LEAs that demonstrate high levels of, or a high risk for administrative error associated with certification and benefit issuance, are required to conduct a second review of all applications received by October 31.
- Questions and Answers Related to the Independent Review of Applications SP 44-2014, 4/30/14
- Independent Review of Applications Final Rule Federal Register, 2/6/14
- Independent Review of Applications Report (Only SFAs notified by the State Agency need to complete the report.)