Office for Food and Nutrition Programs

Determining income eligibility for Child Nutrition programs in communities participating in Community Eligibility Provision

To:Child and Adult Care Food Program Sponsors
Outside School Hours Sponsors
Summer Food Service Program Sponsors
National School Lunch Program Sponsors
From:Robert M. Leshin, Acting Director
Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety Programs
Date:September 1, 2015

The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National School Lunch Program (NSLP)'s universal meal service option, Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), has been made available to local educational agencies (LEAs) state-wide as of the 2013-2014 school year. The purpose of this memorandum is to inform Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors of changes to the process of assessing eligibility for free and reduced priced meals in SFSP and CACFP. What is CEP?
A directive outlined in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, amended section 11(a) (1) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42.U.S.C.1759a (a) (1)) to provide an alternative to household eligibility applications for free and reduced price meal eligibility in high poverty LEAs (or districts) and schools. This meal counting and claiming alternative is referred to as the CEP. This option will make it easier for eligible children in low income communities to receive free meals in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Community Eligibility alleviates the burden on families by eliminating household applications, while helping schools reduce costs associated with collecting and processing those applications. This process requires schools to document "Identified Students" certified for free school meals through direct certification (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid) and categorical eligibility (foster, Head Start, homeless, runaways and migrant). LEA's and schools participating in CEP must document a minimum level of Indentified Students in order to be eligible to provide free meals to all students. However, under CEP not all students have an individual eligibility status that can be transferred to other Child Nutrition programs. CACFP and SFSP Sponsors impacted:
  • CACFP: Child Care Centers and Outside School Hour Programs
  • SFSP: Sponsors of Closed Enrolled sites eligible by collected income information and Camp sites.
How CEP impacts these sponsors:
Sponsors must develop a list of children enrolled in their program that includes the school district and school the child attends. The sponsor must then identify which of these school districts or schools are participating in CEP. If they do not participate in CEP sponsors will continue to request eligibility information for enrolled children's "free", "reduced-priced" and "paid" status from LEA's who collect household eligibility applications. Since not all students have an individual eligibility status when they attend a LEA/school participating in CEP, CACFP and SFSP sponsoring organizations will need to determine the enrolled children's individual eligibility for the "free", "reduced-priced" and "paid" reimbursement rate in their Programs. In order to work with LEA's sponsoring organizations should submit a list of enrolled children to their LEA, requesting the "Identified Students" be documented. The list of enrolled children must include an enrolled child's: first name, last name, date of birth and, the name of the specific school the child attends. All Identified Students are eligible for the "free" reimbursement rate. For the enrolled children who were not identified by the LEA, income applications must be provided to families. The CACFP or SFSP sponsor must distribute and collect the applications for the enrolled children and determine their eligibility as "free", "reduced-priced" or "paid". Impact on LEA's:
The term identified student refers to any student who is:
  • A exact match certified for direct certification through the Virtual Gateway
  • In foster care or in Head Start
  • On a homeless or runaway list
  • Migrant
Per SP 42-2014, Sharing Aggregate Data to Expand Program Access and Services in Child Nutrition Programs: "Child Nutrition Program (CNP) operators may disclose student-specific eligibility status to other CNP operators to expedite children's eligibility certification for these programs… Please note, however, that under the CNPs, data relating to individual children is strictly regulated. For a discussion of the statutory and regulatory requirements for disclosure of information concerning individual children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in any of the CNPs, see statutory requirements in the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act at section 9(b)(6), and in regulations at 7 CFR245.6(f). In addition, the Eligibility Manual For School Meals…" We encourage LEA's to share children's eligibility certification but want to emphasize the importance for all Child Nutrition Programs to consider privacy when sending and retaining this information. Notification of Extension for CACFP Sponsors:
CACFP sponsors will be allowed to continue to claim participating children at their current eligibility through September 30, 2015. The process of distributing, collecting and determining eligibility for participants must be completed by October 31, 2015 and reflected in the Program's October 2015 reported claim data. The meals for enrolled children who have not been "Identified" by the LEA and do not have a completed and approved application on file by October 31, 2015 must be claimed at the paid rate until further documentation is available. Please refer to the document and reference library to access the most current SFSP and CACFP Meal Benefit Income Eligibility Forms and Income Eligibility Guidelines. For assistance you may contact Special Nutrition Program staff at (781) 338-6480 Please continue to visit the nutrition section of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website for program updates during the fiscal year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the bases of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal and, where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or if all or part of an individual's income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the Department. (Not all prohibited bases will apply to all programs and/or employment activities.) If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at Filing a Program Discrimination Complaint as a USDA Customer, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. You may also write a letter containing all of the information requested in the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter to us by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202) 690-7442 or email at
Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities and wish to file either an EEO or program complaint please contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339 or (800) 845-6136 (in Spanish).
Persons with disabilities, who wish to file a program complaint, please see information above on how to contact us by mail directly or by email. If you require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) please contact USDA's TARGET Center at (202) 720-2600 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Last Updated: September 3, 2015

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