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Sharing School Meal Applications with CalFresh


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: Public School Districts, County Superintendents of Schools, and Charter Schools

Number: NSD-SNP-05-2013
Attention: Food Service/Program Directors Date: July 2013
Subject: Sharing School Meal Applications with CalFresh Offices
Reference: Assembly Bill 402, Chapter 504, Statutes of 2011; California Education Code sections 49557.3 and 49558; Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18901.55
http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_0401-0450/ab_402_bill_20111006_chaptered.html

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides information regarding the implementation of Assembly Bill (AB) 402, which amended California Education Code (EC) Section 49558 and added EC Section 49557.3 and Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18901.55. Effective January 1, 2012, school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools (collectively known as Local Educational Agencies [LEA]) may voluntarily implement a process to share information on National School Lunch Program (NSLP) meal applications with local CalFresh (previously known as Food Stamps) offices.

Overview of Assembly Bill 402
The goal of AB 402 is to increase the participation of free and reduced-price (F/RP) meal eligible student households in the CalFresh program. Many students are eligible for the CalFresh program, but are not currently receiving benefits. AB 402 allows LEAs, under certain conditions, to share NSLP meal application information for eligible student households with local county welfare departments (or designees) to determine CalFresh eligibility. LEAs may choose to share student’s approved NSLP meal applications, or the information they contain, with local CalFresh offices if the LEA and the CalFresh office meet the following requirements:
  1. Enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that specifies the roles and responsibilities of each agency and describes the method used for sharing information

  2. Obtain written consent from the parent or guardian approving information-sharing
Establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with a County Welfare Agency

AB 402 requires LEAs that want to participate in the information-sharing process with CalFresh offices to first establish an MOU between the LEA and the local CalFresh office. A list of county offices is available on the California Department of Education (CDE) CalFresh County Contacts Direct Certification Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/directcertcountycontacts.asp.

Although the educational and welfare agencies may include terms in the MOU unique to their local needs, the MOU must include the following:

  1. The NSLP application, or the information it contains, may only be shared by LEAs with the local agency that determines CalFresh eligibility (local CalFresh office). The child’s NSLP meal application must be approved for F/RP meals, and the parent or guardian of the child must consent in writing to the sharing of that information pursuant to EC Section 49557.3(a).
  1. The written consent must contain statements that the parent or guardian is aware of the following:

    1. They are consenting to the sharing of the NSLP application with the local CalFresh office for purposes of determining eligibility for the CalFresh program

    2. The NSLP application and the information it contains is confidential and will not be shared with any other office or for any other purpose beyond enrollment in the CalFresh program

    3. Participation in the CalFresh program is strictly voluntary

    4. The CalFresh office will provide the applicant with a CalFresh application for the purposes of enrollment in the CalFresh program

  2. The MOU developed by each LEA and each local CalFresh office wanting to engage in information-sharing must be signed by representatives of each agency that has authority to enter into such an agreement.
  1. The respective roles and responsibilities of the LEA and the local CalFresh office, including the processes to be used in sharing the NSLP application/information (e.g. sharing will be conducted physically or electronically), must be clearly set forth.
  1. The information to be disclosed by the LEA must distinguish whether the NSLP application itself will be shared or only the information it contains, how much of the information will be disclosed, and whether the MOU will apply to students approved for free meals only or to students approved for reduced-price meals as well. The MOU must also detail how the information will be used by the local CalFresh office.
  1. NSLP applicants whose information is shared with the local CalFresh office must be required to complete a CalFresh application prior to enrollment in the CalFresh program.
  1. The MOU must state that the NSLP application and the information it contains is confidential and shall not be used by the local CalFresh office for any purpose not directly related to the enrollment of families in the CalFresh program, and that it will not be shared by the LEA or local CalFresh office with any other government agency, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services) or the Social Security Administration, unless specifically authorized to do so pursuant to other provisions of law.
  1. The MOU must inform the parties that the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) establishes a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, if any eligibility information is published, divulged, disclosed, or made known in any manner or extent not authorized by federal law. This includes the disclosure of eligibility information by one entity authorized under the NSLA to receive the information directly from the determining agency. In addition, the MOU must inform the parties that federal law establishes a fine of not more than $5,000 for any employee who willfully discloses individually identifiable information in any manner to any person or agency not entitled to receive it or who knowingly and willfully requests or obtains any record concerning an individual from an agency under false pretenses.

In accordance with the terms of the MOU and federal and state law, once the LEA shares the NSLP application information, the local CalFresh office may use the information as an initial application for CalFresh.

Parent or Guardian Consent Requirements

For the NSLP application or any information contained in the application to be released to local CalFresh offices, parental or guardian consent must be obtained and the consent must meet the requirements below. LEAs may use the Parental or Guardian Consent Form to Release the Household Meal Application to the CalFresh Program on CDE’s School Nutrition Program Forms Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/fm.asp.

  1. The consent must be in writing and must identify the information that will be shared and how that information will be used. In this case, the information to be shared is the NSLP application, or the information it contains, and it will be used by the local CalFresh office to initiate enrollment of the student’s family in the CalFresh program.

  2. The consent must be signed and dated only by the student’s parent or guardian, who is a member of the household, unlike the NSLP meal application, which can be signed by any adult member of the household.

  3. The consent must inform the parent or guardian that failure to sign the consent form will not affect the student’s eligibility for F/RP meals.

  4. The consent must notify parents or guardians that the NSLP application, or the information it contains, will be shared only with the local CalFresh office and only for purposes of determining eligibility for CalFresh benefits.

Once the LEA shares the NSLP information, the local CalFresh office may use the information to determine eligibility for CalFresh, in accordance with the terms of the MOU and federal and state law.

Distribution of Information to Families

If the student’s family is determined to be eligible for CalFresh, the local CalFresh office shall notify the family of eligibility and shall enroll the family in the CalFresh program upon receipt of a signed CalFresh application.

LEAs choosing to participate in this program should notify households of this opportunity as soon as possible after a student is determined eligible for F/RP meals. The parental consent form and CalFresh information can be included with the LEAs’ notice of approval for F/RP meals.

An All County Letter on the implementation of AB 402 is being distributed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to local CalFresh offices, and can be found on the CDSS 2013 All County Letters Web page at http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/lettersnotices/PG3104.htm

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact Ruthann Munsterman, School Nutrition Programs Specialist, by phone at 916-323-0863 or by e-mail at rmunsterman@cde.ca.gov, or Naaz Rathore, School Nutrition Program Specialist, by phone at 916-445-4839 or by e-mail at nrathore@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
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