Office for Food and Nutrition Programs
SY 2013-14 Massachusetts Meal Benefit Household Application Package
School Administrators and School Nutrition Directors
Kathleen C. Millett, Executive Director
Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety Programs
June 11, 2013
Attached are the Massachusetts prototype materials for households applying for free or reduced price meals in the School Nutrition Programs. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the child nutrition federal reauthorization law, made several changes to eligibility. Based on input from several sources, we have developed a Massachusetts Family Household application that streamlines the application and instructions. This package includes forms and letters for local educational agencies (LEA) and institutions to use in the certification and verification processes. This application contains the required information so, please ensure that all the schools use this current school year meal benefit application documents. Use of outdated materials may result in a fiscal disallowance.
If you are in need of application packages in other languages, please use the USDA application packages. There are 34 different language selections available at USDA Translated School Meals Applications. Please refer to the eligibility manual (page 8) for additional instructions on diminishing barriers to participation for Limited English Proficient (LEP) households.
In October of 2012, a new Eligibility Manual for School Meals was released by USDA. This manual identifies some significant changes to the meal benefit issuance process. All changes are in effect for School Year 2013-14..
The major changes are:
- All direct certifications must be done via electronic match.
- Direct Certification must be conducted minimally at mandated intervals three times a year. See the new eligibility manual for timeframe requirements. All districts will have real time access to conduct electronic matching via the Virtual Gateway.
- Temporary Approval of an application is no longer permitted because of the year long duration of eligibility provision.
- Foster children are categorically eligible for free meal benefits and an application is not needed. Foster children have been added to the Virtual Gateway direct certification match process.
- Foster children may be included in the household application as part of the household size. This may result in an application having dual eligibility that includes foster children as free eligible, and other household children determined to be free, reduced or paid eligible. This is depicted in the "school use only" section of the Massachusetts 2013-2014 SY meal benefit application.
- As implemented last year, the last four digits of the social security number for the adult signing the application needs to be listed rather than the entire social security number.
- The need to collect additional adult social security numbers as part of the verification process has been eliminated.
Please note that the prototype application and letter to parents includes the reduced price income eligibility guidelines chart. The 2013-14 Income Eligibility Guidelines for determining eligibility for free or reduced price meals have been issued and are located in the ESE Security Portal's Document and Reference Library under 2013-2014 NSLP Meal Benefit Application Documents.
Just a reminder that applications may be printed now, however, according to the Eligibility Manual for School Meals (August 2012), page 9, "Information letters cannot be sent home at the end of the school year for the next year nor can the LEA accept and process applications before the beginning of the federally defined school year (July 1 through June 30).
The packet also has additional documents for the meal benefit eligibility and verification process. There is a document related to the sharing of meal eligibility status with other programs. The sharing of information may be utilized for specific programs that are not covered by the federal/state education program as authorized by law, as long as the program is identified on the release form. Individual programs must be listed and have the parent/guardian's signature prior to the release of any information. Parental consent is not required when sharing student eligibility information with other Child Nutrition Programs such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Please refer to the Eligibility Manual for School Meals (August 2012) for complete information.
The 2013-2014 Income Eligibility Guidelines and household application are two additional separate attachments:
School Year 2013-14 Income Eligibility Guidelines
Massachusetts Free and Reduced Price School Meals Household Application School Year 2013-2014
If an LEA chooses to distribute any other meal benefit application in lieu of the Massachusetts Household Application or any of the USDA official Free and Reduced Price Household Applications, including online, scanned or paper, it will need to be approved by ESE's Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety. Please forward a complete, ready to be approved, district specific application packet to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow up to 4 weeks for review of submitted documents.
If you have not completed your Virtual Gateway training, please contact Carrie Harrington at 781-338-6499 immediately.