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Questions and Answers on Meal Certification

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Number: USDA-SNP-29-2012

Attention: Food Service Director

Date: July 2012

Subject: Questions and Answers related to the Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Policy Memo SP 31-2012

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides information on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Policy Memo SP 31-2012, Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2010: Questions and Answers related to the Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This memo addresses questions related to certification of compliance and the new performance-based reimbursement established in the interim rule. The policy memo is available on the USDA School Meals Policy Memos Web page at

Section 201 of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) requires state agencies (SAs) to certify and reimburse school food authorities (SFAs) in compliance with the New Meal Pattern (NMP) requirements with an additional six cents per lunch beginning October 1, 2012. The Certification of Compliance interim rule requires a number of infrastructure changes and additional responsibilities for SAs in a short time frame. Therefore, the California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) has formed an internal work group to develop an implementation process. The NSD will provide clarification on certification procedures through future MBs and statewide training opportunities.


The HHFKA established the additional six cents per lunch reimbursement for SFAs in compliance with the NMP to assist SFAs in meeting the updated meal pattern requirements and encourage implementation as quickly as possible. The HHFKA specifically states that the new food-based menu planning (FBMP) approach for lunch is effective July 1, 2012. Therefore, all SFAs are required to comply with the NMP requirements beginning school year (SY) 2012–13 regardless of the date which the SFA submits certification documentation. Both SAs and SFAs have specific responsibilities within the certification process to ensure timely implementation of the NMP requirements and proper stewardship of federal funds.

Detailed information on the SY 2012–13 requirements for lunch is available on the USDA FNS Nutrition Standards for School Meals Web page at

In addition, you may review the following NSD MBs for further information. [Note, this content is no longer available online.]

  • USDA‑SNP‑20‑2012: New Meal Pattern Questions and Answers—Revised

  • USDA‑SNP‑26-2012: Additional New Meal Pattern Questions and Answers

School Food Authorities

The SFA is responsible for applying for certification and ensuring that all sites within the SFA demonstrate compliance with the meal patterns required for both lunch and breakfast (if the SFA participates in the School Breakfast Program) at the time the SFA applies for certification.

For example, an SFA that applies for certification in SY 2012–13 must demonstrate compliance with all of the current breakfast and lunch requirements effective in SY 2012–13. If the SFA does not serve breakfast, documentation is only required for lunch. If the SFA does serve breakfast, the documentation must reflect the breakfast planning option currently in use (e.g. SHAPE Nutrient Standard Menu Planning, Traditional or Enhanced FBMP, and Nutrient or Assisted Nutrient Standard Menu Planning).

An SFA requesting certification must submit the following documentation according to grade group to demonstrate compliance and receive approval:

  • One week of menus for each menu type offered (both breakfast and lunch)
  • USDA menu worksheet(s)
  • Nutrient analysis or simplified nutrient assessment
  • A statement attesting compliance with the current meal pattern

All documentation submitted must reflect the meal service in the current calendar month or the month prior to the month of submission. The SFA may apply for certification prior to October 1, 2012; however, the documentation must reflect meals planned for October or November 2012. Moreover, SFAs will not receive the additional reimbursement for lunches served prior to October 1, 2012.  For those SFAs that apply for certification at a later date, the documentation must reflect meals planned during the month submitted or the month prior, but no earlier. The NSD will provide SFAs the details for submission later this month.

State Agencies

The SA is responsible for determining SFA compliance with the NMP requirements, issuing certification, and reimbursing certified SFAs with the additional six cents per reimbursable lunch. In addition, the SA must provide technical assistance (TA) and tools to support SFAs in complying with the NMP and receiving certification. The NSD is currently providing training and TA on the NMP through workshops, Webinars, and through e-mail using the New MeAl Planning Priorities (NewMAPP) subject line. The NSD is also testing a prototype certification menu worksheet and simplified nutrient assessment tool developed by the USDA to assist in certification determination.

The SA is only required to certify an SFA once in SY 2012–13. However, if the SFA is denied certification, they may reapply at any time. The SA must determine certification within 60 days of receipt of a complete packet of the required documents. If the documents are submitted prior to October 1, 2012, the 60 days begins October 1, 2012. 

The SA must approve or deny SFAs using the documentation submitted, but may certify SFAs by reviewing their menu documentation on site. Once the SA has certified the SFA, the agency will receive the additional six cents for reimbursable lunches served from the first day of the month in which the certified lunches are served, but not earlier than October 1, 2012.

Administrative and Validation Reviews

The USDA is permitting SAs to postpone some SY 2012–13 Administrative Reviews (AR) (currently known as Coordinated Review Efforts) to SY 2013–14 due to the certification processes. The SAs will begin a three-year cycle of ARs in SY 2013–14, and the SA will conduct an AR in SY 2013-14 for all SFAs that did not certify in SY 2012–13. During SY 2012–13, the SA must conduct on-site reviews to validate menu compliance for 25 percent of certified SFAs. The NSD will select SFAs randomly for validation reviews; however, the USDA requires all SFAs with an enrollment of 40,000 or more to receive a validation review in SY 2012–13. Both validation and administrative reviews may result in corrective and/or fiscal action if the SFA is found out of compliance with the NMP lunch requirements. The degree of fiscal action is dependent upon the longevity and severity of the problems discovered. To diminish the need for recovery of improperly paid federal funds and ensure their proper stewardship, the NSD will make every effort to conduct the required validation reviews within the 60-day time frame for certification.


Information related to the certification of compliance with the NMP requirements is available on the USDA FNS Nutrition Standards for School Meals Web page at

SFAs are welcome to submit comments to the USDA FNS on the interim rule on or before July 26, 2012, using the Federal eRulemaking Web site at

If you have questions regarding this MB, you may contact Karen King, Child Nutrition Supervisor I, by phone at 916-323-6035, or by e-mail at You may also obtain more information from your Field Services Child Nutrition Consultant at 916-323-4792 or 800-952-5609, Option 2.

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