Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Logo
Food and Nutrition Programs

Civil Rights

How Is the Public Made Aware of How They Can Access Child Nutrition Programs (CNPs)?

All United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) assistance programs must issue a public notification at or before the beginning of annual operation. This notification is to inform applicants, participants, and potentially eligible persons of the program availability, program rights and responsibilities, the policy of nondiscrimination, and the procedure for filing a complaint. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) Office for Food and Nutrition (FNP) supports CNPs with the following resources:

How Can I File a CNP Civil Rights Complaint If I Feel One Has Occurred?

Any person or representative alleging discrimination, either written or verbal, based on a prohibited basis has the right to file a complaint within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action. Federal protected basis includes race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability. An overview of current Massachusetts State protected classes.

If a CNP Sponsor receives a civil rights complaint at the local level it must be forwarded to the appropriate Office of Civil Rights (OCR) (FNS Headquarters, Regional, or State) for a determination on how the complaint will be handled. The appropriate OCR will prepare and issue letters of acknowledgment to the complainants.

What Are Reasonable Modifications to Accommodate Persons (Individuals) with Disabilities in CNPs?

The USDA nondiscrimination regulation (7 CFR 15b), as well as the regulations governing the CNPs, make it clear that substitutions to the regular meal must be made, at no extra cost, for children who are unable to eat meals served in any CNP because of their disabilities.

When it is possible, FNS and FNP strongly encourages local educational agencies (LEAs) and Sponsoring Organizations (SOs) to take a team approach when providing modifications for participants with disabilities. Developing a team that includes individuals from the LEA, SO, center, day care home, or summer site, and the Section 504 Coordinator (when there is one) will help ensure consistent decisions, implementation, and tracking of meal modifications. The most effective team may also include others with training in this area, such as a nurse or Registered Dietitian.

How Can I Ensure Meaningful Access to Language Assistance for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Populations in CNPs?

There are many ways to ensure meaningful access in CNPs for LEP populations. To assist CNP Sponsors in implementing one method, FNP has developed a list of taglines that LEAs and SOs can use when communicating with parents and guardians within the school district or institution. The purpose of the taglines is to inform the LEP parent/guardian (in their preferred or understood language) of who to contact within the district or institution if they need language assistance services.

What Is the Civil Rights "Non Discrimination Statement" And Where Should It Be Included?

This statement informs anyone who comes into contact with CNPs that USDA agencies, offices, employees, and institutions who participate in USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Included is the process to file a program complaint of discrimination.

All LEAs and SOs that participate in the federally funded CNPs must post the following nondiscrimination statement and include it, in full, on all materials regarding CNPs that are produced for public information, public education, or public distribution.

What Is the Civil Rights "Assurance Language" And Where Should It Be Included?

To qualify for Federal financial assistance, an application must be accompanied by a written assurance that the entity to receive financial assistance will be operated in compliance with all nondiscrimination laws, regulations, instructions, policies, and guidelines. Retailer and vendor agreements, though not an indicator of being a recipient of Federal financial assistance, must also include an assurance of nondiscrimination. Where applicable, a statement of assurance must be incorporated into the Retailer/Vendor/Federal/State/local/subrecipient agency agreement.

What Specific Components Are Required for My District's Complaint Policy to Ensure CNP Regulations Around Civil Rights Complaints Are Met?

These policies and procedures should at minimum include a process that does not hinder the submission of a complaint, ensures any complaints that involve a federally protected class and Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) be referred to FNS CRD within 5 days of receipt and the complaint is logged in their CNP specific Civil Rights complaint log.

How Can I Learn More about Implementing Civil Rights in Massachusetts CNPs?

FNP in partnership with the John C Stalker Institute for Food and Nutrition have developed a state approved elearning module that meets the annual training requirement of all CNP staff. This module is available free of charge as part of the Nuts and Bolts of School Nutrition Programs On Demand Series.

Last Updated: June 11, 2024

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.