- What is the Special Milk Program?
- What are the benefits of participating in the Program?
- What type of milk must be offered?
- What is involved in operating a Special Milk Program?
- How do we get paid?
- What types of agencies may participate?
- Where can we get assistance?
- Whom do we contact?
The Special Milk Program is a federally funded program which assists schools and other agencies in providing milk to children at reasonable prices. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In California, the Program is administered by the California Department of Education (CDE), Nutrition Services Division.
For children, the Special Milk Program provides a nutritious beverage, rich in calcium and vitamins A and D, which aids in the development of strong bones and teeth. For parents, the Program provides a low cost, convenient method of ensuring that their children receive a healthy and delicious beverage when they are away from home. Schools benefit by helping their students take at least one step in a direction that can enhance academic performance -- good nutrition.
Pasteurized, fluid types of flavored or unflavored milk that meet state and local standards must be offered. All milk should contain vitamins A and D at levels specified by the Food and Drug Administration. This includes whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, cultured buttermilk and chocolate milk.
The Special Milk Program must be open to all enrolled children. Two different methods may be used when charging for milk:
- The price charged for milk may be included in the tuition or camping fee so that all children automatically receive milk. This is called a non-pricing program.
- There can be a separate charge for milk, so that the purchase of milk is optional. This is called a pricing program. If there is a separate charge for milk (a pricing program), the agency may choose to provide milk at no charge to children who qualify for free milk, according to specific family size and income standards.
The agency must keep records documenting that the Program follows all federal and state rules and regulations. Some of the records that must be kept are:
- The number of half-pints of milk served each day, by site, and if applicable, by category (free milk and purchased milk).
- Applications for free milk submitted by the families, by site, if milk is provided at no charge to eligible children.
- Inventory records that document the amounts and types of milk used.
- Records of income, expenditures and contributions received.
The CDE periodically reviews each agency's Special Milk Program. Those agencies that annually receive more than $500,000 in federal funds (from all sources) must also be audited each year.
The Special Milk Program is operated on a reimbursement basis,
with agencies paid based on the number of half-pints of milk served.
At the end of each month, agencies submit a reimbursement
claim form, available on the CDE fiscal Nutrition Services-School Nutrition Program Web page, to the CDE. After
the Department reviews the form, the claim is sent to the State
Controller's Office, where the check is issued. Agencies typically
receive reimbursement within four to six weeks after submitting
the reimbursement claim form.
For milk that is provided free of charge to eligible children, the amount of reimbursement is equal to the average cost paid by the agency for each half-pint of milk. Please see our Rates, Eligibility Scales, and Funding page for the current rates.
With one exception, agencies that do not participate in the National
School Lunch Program , School Breakfast Program ,
Child and Adult Care Food Program ( child care component
or adult day care component ), or Summer Food
Service Program are eligible to participate in the Special
Milk Program. This includes public and private nonprofit schools,
licensed residential child care institutions (e.g., group homes,
juvenile halls, orphanages), nursery schools, child care centers,
settlement houses and summer camps.
An exception is made for those private nonprofit schools that participate in the above-mentioned child nutrition programs, but have split-session kindergarten programs that do not have access to the child nutrition program. In this situation, the private nonprofit school may participate in the Special Milk Program, and milk served in the split-session kindergarten program may be claimed for reimbursement.
Nutritionists and program staff from the CDE are available to provide free technical assistance and guidance on how to operate a National School Lunch Program. Assistance is available on such topics as record keeping, reporting, and clarifying federal and state regulations.
Please see the county list of School Nutrition Programs (SNP) specialists in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). You may also contact the SNP Unit Secretary by phone at 916-322-1450 or 800-952-5609.