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McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance

Homeless Education Advisory 2002 - 4: Homeless Students' Access to Child Nutrition Programs

The federal Mckinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act requires that school districts enrolling homeless students ensure that homeless children and youth are able to participate in Federal, State, or local food programs.

The determination of eligibility for free meal benefits has been revised to allow benefits to be made available to homeless students as soon as possible:

  • To expedite the delivery of nutritional benefits, school officials may accept documentation that students are homeless from the local educational liaison or the director of homeless shelter where the students reside.

  • Documentation to substantiate free meal eligibility that is acceptable in lieu of a free and reduced price meal application may consist of the child's name or list of names, effective date (s), and the signature of the Homeless Education Liaison or the director of the homeless shelter.

  • School officials must ensure that the school food service department is promptly advised when children leave the school or are no longer considered homeless. (When the student is no longer homeless, school officials must provide the household with an application for free and reduced price meals.)

  • A child or family may temporarily reside with another household and still be considered homeless under the definition of homeless in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. In these cases the household size and income of the host family are not taken into consideration in determining the free meal eligibility for the child(ren) designated as homeless by the Homeless Education Liaison.

  • Additionally, when a host family applies for free and reduced price meals for their own children, the host family may include the homeless family as household members if the host family provides financial support to the homeless individuals, but any income received by the homeless family must also be included. School officials must determine eligibility for the host family in the traditional manner. Temporary approval for free/reduced price meal benefits should be issued as appropriate.

  • Nonetheless, free meal eligibility for the homeless child is based on the documentation provided by the Homeless Education Liaison, even when the child is included on the host family's free and reduced price meal application. The host family's eligibility should be reevaluated if the household changes.

School authorities should work with their Homeless Education Liaison to implement these expedited procedures and to ensure that homeless children and youth have access to the benefits of the child nutrition programs as promptly as possible. Access to child nutrition programs has been found to contribute to academic achievement and to support establishing healthy eating patterns for life. The availability of the school lunch and breakfast programs, as well as after school snack programs, in schools provides direct access to nutrition and nutrition education resources for students.



Last Updated: August 16, 2002
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