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Meal App for Limited English Proficient Households

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: National School Lunch Program Sponsors, School Breakfast Program Sponsors, and Special Milk Program Sponsors Number: USDA-SNP-07-2013
Attention: Food Service Directors Date: August 2013
Subject: Meal Application and Eligibility Materials for Limited English Proficient Households
Reference: Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 245.6(a)(2); California Education Code Section 49557(a); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Policy Memos SP 06-2012 and SP 42-2012: Applications and Other Household Materials for Limited English Proficient Households; and SP 21-2013: Family-Friendly Applications

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides updated information regarding requirements for meal applications and eligibility materials for Limited English Proficient (LEP) households.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service, has issued Policy Memos SP 06-2012 and SP 42-2012, “Applications and Other Household Materials for Limited English Proficient Households,” and SP 21-2013, “Family-Friendly Applications.” These memos inform School Food Authorities (SFA) of the requirements for communicating with LEP households and of the availability of a family-friendly application package in 33 languages on the USDA Family Friendly Application Translations Web page at The USDA requires SFAs to ensure that language and communication are not barriers to receiving school meal benefits.


On October 28, 2011, the USDA published the final rule, Applying for Free and Reduced-Price Meals in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program and for Benefits in the Special Milk Program and Technical Amendments. In order to comply with this rule and effectively communicate with LEP households, SFAs must make changes to household eligibility and verification materials distributed to LEP households.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, SFAs are to ensure that LEP households have access to the same information as non-LEP households in a manner they can easily understand. SFAs should have a process in place to determine if they meet the language needs of LEP households.

Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 245.6(a)(2), requires that SFAs communicate with households for eligibility determination purposes in an understandable and uniform format, and to the maximum extent practicable, in a language that parents and guardians can understand.

To help SFAs comply with the regulations and ensure that parents or guardians can complete household eligibility applications, the USDA created a simplified family-friendly application package, which contains the application, instructions, and a letter to households.

SFAs are to follow the steps below to comply with California Department of Education (CDE) requirements and USDA recommendations:

  1. Provide written translations that adhere to California requirements:

SFAs must offer materials in the language of the household. SFAs can develop written translations of their own materials in the languages applicable to their community or, with required modifications, SFAs can use the translated application materials on the above USDA Web page.

To comply with California Education Code (EC) and state programs, the CDE requires that SFAs modify the translated application materials as follows:

  1. Add EC Section 49557(a): “Applications for free and reduced-price meals may be submitted at any time during a school day. Children participating in the National School Lunch Program will not be overtly identified by the use of special tokens, special tickets, special serving lines, separate entrances, separate dining areas, or by any other means.” This EC section requires that the statement above be in at least 8-point boldface type and be placed on the application itself.

  2. Change all references to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to CalFresh.

  3. Change all references to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs).

  4. Add Kinship Guardianship Assistance and Payment Program (Kin-GAP) to any statement or list that refers to CalFresh, CalWORKS, or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

  5. Exclude the page “Sharing Information With Medicaid/SCHIP” found within the USDA family-friendly application package. SFAs must adhere to provisions of EC Section 49557.2, which specifies how SFAs can share students’ school meal information with Medi-Cal.
  1. Identify the primary language of LEP households that might be eligible for free or reduced-price meals and communicate with households in that language:

Many schools identify the primary language of parents and guardians upon enrollment. SFAs can use this information to determine the best language to use when communicating school meal information to LEP households. SFAs can also use the

USDA’s “I Speak” document, which can be downloaded from the USDA Translated Applications Web page at at  

  1. Provide oral interpretation services:

If members of an LEP household speak a less prevalent language or have limited literacy, the SFA must identify available interpretation services and utilize those services to communicate with the household about school meal benefits. Parents or guardians should not need to rely on household members or friends to interpret information.

  1. Assist with verification:

Verification materials, such as notices and follow-up requests, should be available in the primary language of the household. If interpretation services are needed, the SFA must provide them.

  1. Serve parents and guardians with limited literacy:

SFAs must ensure that LEP household members can understand school meal eligibility materials. These materials should be designed to be comprehensible to those with low literacy levels. SFAs must provide assistance to parents and guardians who cannot read.

  1. Include the required nondiscrimination statement:

The Application for Free and Reduced-Price Meals or Milk, and the Letter to Households, must include the nondiscrimination statement located on CDE’s USDA Civil Rights Web page at It is important that household members understand that they will be treated fairly if they apply for free and reduced-price meals.

As a reminder, SFAs may use the nonprofit food service cafeteria account to pay for translations for food service purposes.

For further information, please refer to USDA’s Policy Memos SP 06-2012 and SP 42-2012, which are available on the FNS School Meals Policy Memo Web page at

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact Joan Davis, School Nutrition Programs Specialist, by phone at 916-445-9137 or by e-mail at

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, March 7, 2016

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