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Menu Certification Guidance, Third Revision

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy
To: National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program Sponsors Number: USDA-SNP-09-2013
Attention: Food Service Director Date: May 2013
Subject: Menu Certification Guidance for Performance-Based Reimbursement, Third Revision
Reference: Management Bulletin Validation and Validation Review USDA-SNP-04-2013; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memo 31-2012: Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, revised January 22, 2013

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), has issued Policy Memo SP 31-2012 (3rd Revision), Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010: Questions and Answers Related to Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program. This memo provides additional responses to questions regarding the Menu Certification requirements established under Section 201 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296. It also provides updates to California Department of Education (CDE) School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Management Bulletin (MB) USDA-SNP-04-2013, Validation and Validation Review Checklist. You can view USDA-SNP-04-2013 on the CDE SNP MBs Web page at

The USDA policy memo includes original, revised, and new questions and answers on a number of important topics regarding menu certification and validation reviews. Some of the more significant topics are summarized in a paragraph underneath the paraphrased statement. The complete questions and answers are located in SP 31-2012, which can be viewed on the USDA FNS School Meals Policy Memos Web page at For ease of reference, new and revised topics, along with their corresponding numbers, are listed below by category.

Certification Process
  1. CDE responsibility for Technical Assistance (TA) (Revised)

  2. Timeline for CDE certification determination (Revised)

  3. Submission timeframe of an incomplete application (Revised)

The USDA provided the CDE an extension from the 60 day period to 120 days effective January 11, 2013.

  1. Month reimbursement begins for incomplete packet (New)

The CDE screens all packets within two weeks of receipt in order to identify School Food Authorities (SFA) which have submitted incomplete or incorrect applications. The CDE contacts these SFAs and requests immediate adjustments to complete and/or correct the packet contents. An “immediate” adjustment is one that the SFA completes within 5 business days. If the SFA is unable to make immediate changes, the CDE will return the packet to the SFA after making a series of attempts to work with the SFA including by phone and e-mail.

If the CDE returns the incomplete or incorrect certification packet to the SFA, SFAs may resubmit for certification at any time, but the start date of reimbursement is retroactive to the first day of the month of the resubmitted packet after menu certification approval.

For those SFAs that pass the initial CDE screening process, an e-mail confirmation will be sent and the Certification of Compliance packet is considered “complete” and “correct” for purposes of determining the start date of potential reimbursement.                                                                                                                                

Certification Documentation
  1. CDE responsibility during an on-site certification (Option 3) (Revised)

The CDE is offering Option 3 certification to those agencies that have not applied for the menu certification at the time of their Administrative Review (AR).

  1. Documentation of menus for an entire SFA (Revised)

  2. Clarification for Residential Child Care Institution certification (Revised)

  3. New flexibility for the month of menu service (Revised)
Submission of Certification Packets to the California Department of Education

Month of Submitted Packet

Month of Menu Service

Start Date for an Additional Six Cent Meal Reimbursement

April 2013

March, April, May


May 2013

April, May, June


June 2013

May, June, July


*Reimbursement is retroactive to the first day of the month of the certified menu after menus have passed the certification process.

Under previous USDA guidance, for example, an SFA could submit a request for certification during the month of April with documentation of March or April meal service. Under new USDA guidance, documentation may also reflect planned meal service for the month following the calendar month of submission in addition to the previous or current month. For instance, an SFA could submit a request for certification during the month of April with documentation of March, April, or May meal service.

  1. Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) eligible for six cents reimbursement (New)

SFAs certified as meeting the New Meal Pattern (NMP) are automatically eligible to receive the six cents reimbursement for lunches served under the SSFO program.

School Year 2012–13 Validation Reviews
  1. Guidance for CDE to contact SFAs not yet certified (Revised)

  2. Selection of SFAs for validation review (Revised)

  3. Clarification of inclusion of large SFAs in validation sample (Revised)

  4. New guidance for CDE conducting validation reviews during administrative reviews (New)

  5. Instructions for the CDE to estimate 25 percent validation review requirements (Revised)

  6. Actions required if the CDE is unable to validate the certification (New)

If corrective action occurs immediately, while the CDE is onsite, the SFA may continue to earn the additional six cent meal reimbursement. The SFA may also continue to earn the additional six cent meal reimbursement if the CDE and the SFA identify and agree on the corrective action during the validation review. The corrective action must resolve any observed problems, even if implementation does not occur during the review week.    

If the CDE review finds that significant noncompliance exists that requires the SFA to develop and implement a corrective action plan over an extended period of time (i.e., problems that cannot be fixed immediately), the CDE will turn off the additional six cent meal reimbursement. The additional six cent meal reimbursement would be turned back on effective the first full month following the implementation of acceptable corrective action. The USDA does not require the CDE to recover previously paid six cents reimbursements. The USDA’s expectation is that this course of action would be appropriate only in circumstances of clearly egregious or willful noncompliance by an SFA. For additional information please refer to question 17 below.

  1. SFAs no longer required to reapply for certification (New)

An SFA does not need to reapply for certification if the additional six cent meal reimbursement is turned off. Rather, the SFA must demonstrate through appropriate corrective action documentation that it has remedied the problem(s) identified during the validation review. When such documentation is approved by the CDE, the SFA will begin earning the additional six cent meal reimbursement effective the first full month following the implementation of acceptable corrective action. 

  1. Significant noncompliance identified during validation review (New)

The CDE will transition the validation review into a focused AR if the CDE identifies a missing component or a repeated violation of the milk type requirement (these problems would result in a Performance Standard 2 violation). The purpose of transitioning to a focused AR is to use the long-established procedures for more in-depth review and determination of fiscal action, if necessary. Under a focused AR, the CDE only reviews that portion of the SFA’s operations that the validation review indicates require additional attention.

  1. The CDE recovery of regular reimbursement during a validation review (New)

  2. State application of the $600 disregard for fiscal action during a validation review (New)

  3. Recovery of the additional six cent meal reimbursement at SFA or site level (New)

Recovery of the additional six cent meal reimbursement is at the discretion of the CDE and may be applied only to the school(s) in which the meal pattern violations are observed, or to all schools in the SFA depending on the nature of the violation and the documentation available to the CDE.  

Administrative Reviews
  1. Guidance for AR and impact on the three-year cycle (Revised)

The first year of the new review cycle (School Year [SY] 2013–14) must include any SFAs that were scheduled for a review in SY 2012–13 and whose review was postponed. In addition, the USDA requires the CDE to conduct an AR early in the review cycle for any SFAs that have not applied for certification or whose certification request was denied during the certification process or whose additional six cent meal reimbursement was turned off during a validation review for significant meal pattern violations. It may not be possible for the CDE to review all SFAs that meet these criteria in SY 2013–14; therefore, the first priority is any SFA whose review was postponed, then as many of those without certification as possible in the first year of the cycle, then completing those uncertified SFAs early in the second year of the cycle.   

  1. SFAs apply for certification but repeatedly fail to meet the requirements (Revised)

  2. Noncompliance of lunch or breakfast requirements identified during an AR (Revised)

  3. Restart of the additional six cent meal reimbursement (Not revised)

This question from AR section of policy memo SP-31-2012 was not previously addressed. We have made note of it in this MB because of its importance.

  1. CDE responsibilities during a focused AR during SY 2012–13 (New)

  2. Repeated violations of the meal pattern requirements (New)
  1. Modified the CDE requirements for FNS-10 and FNS-777 reports (Revised)

  2. Attestation form required through SY 2014–15 (Revised)

  3. New CDE reporting requirements for FNS-777 (New)

  4. The CDE requirement for 90 day FNS-10 report (New)

For questions concerning the menu certification process, please contact the Menu Certification Unit by e-mail at or by phone at 800-952-5609, option 2, followed by option 4.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, October 2, 2015
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