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Income Eligibility Determinations and Duration

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Action Required, Beneficial Information

To: Child and Adult Care Food Program Sponsors and Summer Food Service Program Sponsors

Number: USDA-CACFP-09-2012, USDA-SFSP-04-2012

Attention: Authorized Representatives and Food Program Director

Date: April 2012

Subject: Guidance on Income Eligibility Determinations and Duration

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memos CACFP 06-2012 and SFSP 08-2012

Supersedes: USDA Policy Memos CACFP 04-2010 and SFSP 04-2010, Duration of Income Eligibility and Fixed Percentage Claiming, March 2010; USDA Policy Memo CACFP 06-214, Duration of Households’ Free and Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility Determination, June 2006; and the Child and Adult Care Food Program Eligibility Guidance for Centers

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides guidance and clarification regarding individual income eligibility determinations and durations in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

Eligibility Duration

In accordance with Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), Section 226.23(f), CACFP institutions must collect and report to state agencies free, reduced-price, and paid meal eligibility information. Such information must be updated annually and may not be more than 12 months old. Income eligibility forms should be considered current and valid until the last day of the month in which the form was dated one year earlier. The date to be used to make this determination is the date on which the sponsor or independent center official signs the application to certify eligibility of the participant. For example, a form signed and dated by a sponsor on January 12, 2012, is considered valid until January 31, 2013.

This eligibility duration determination method applies to day care centers and day care homes, and should be used to assess the expiration of an income eligibility form in all situations, regardless of the reimbursement calculation method used. These provisions also apply to the determination of eligibility for free meals under the SFSP when individual children’s eligibility must be established in accordance with 7 CFR Section 225.15(f).

Change in Income

The Child Nutrition and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Reauthorization Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-265) modified requirements related to reporting changes in income during the period of eligibility covered by the application. Households are not required to report changes in circumstances, such as an increase in income, a decrease in household size, or when the household is no longer certified eligible for benefits through the CalFresh or California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs). Therefore, once a household is approved for free, reduced-price, or Tier I benefits, the household remains eligible for those benefits for a period not to exceed 12 months, regardless of any change in household income.

Elimination of Temporary Approval

The final rule, “Applying for Free and Reduced-price Meals in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program and for Benefits in the Special Milk Program,” eliminated the practice of temporary approvals for free or reduced-price meal benefits (76, Federal Regulations, page 66849, October 28, 2011). The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 extended the eligibility period in the NSLP to 12 months, eliminating the use of temporary approvals. Because income guidelines for determining eligibility in the CACFP and the SFSP must align with those of the NSLP, this provision also applies to the CACFP and the SFSP.

Previously, temporary approval was encouraged when the need for assistance seemed short-term, such as when a household experienced a temporary reduction in income or when no income was reported. Year-long eligibility did not apply when a household was given temporary approval. At the end of the temporary approval period, determining officials re-evaluated the household’s situation. Now households that were in temporary approval status on November 28, 2011, or have been temporarily approved since that date, must be approved for an entire year with the original date of the temporary approval as the start of the year of eligibility. If a household’s temporary approval expired prior to November 28, 2011, the household must submit new income eligibility forms. Year-long eligibility includes households that report no income on their income eligibility forms.

Establishing Claiming Percentage

In accordance with 7 CFR Section 226.9(b)(2), state agencies must establish claiming percentages, no less frequently than annually, on the basis of enrolled participants eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Income eligibility forms are valid until the last day of the month that they were originally dated. During any month in which a claiming percentage is being established, any income eligibility forms expiring that month should be included in determining that claiming percentage. The claiming percentage may then still remain valid for up to 12 months. Claiming percentages are intended to capture the number of eligible children at a facility during one period of time. Including all currently valid income eligibility forms, regardless of when they expire within that month, is consistent with this intent.


If you have any questions regarding this MB please contact your CACFP or SFSP Specialist.

The CACFP Specialist Contact List is located in the Child and Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Download Forms section or on the California Department of Education CACFP Web page at

The SFSP Specialist Contact List is located in the CNIPS Download Forms section. You may also contact Melissa Garza, SFSP Specialist, by phone at 916-322-5885, or 800-952-5609 option 6, or by e-mail at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
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