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Tax-Exempt Status for Private Nonprofits

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

Date: May 2014

Number: CACFP-02-2014, SFSP-02-2014

To: Child and Adult Care Food Program Agencies; Summer Food Service Program Agencies

Attention: Food Program Directors

Reference: The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Public Law 111-296, Section 13 of the National School Lunch Act (Title 42, U.S. Code 1761)
U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memoranda CACFP 05-2013 and SFSP 09-2013, and SFSP 02-2011
Internal Revenue Code, sections 501(a) and (c)
Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, sections 225.14(b)––(d), 225.2, and 226.15

Subject: Tax-Exempt Status for Private Nonprofit Organizations and Churches in the Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides an update and clarification regarding eligibility of private nonprofit organizations and churches seeking participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

In order to participate in the CACFP or SFSP, private nonprofit organizations must show documentation of their tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (IRC). Under certain circumstances, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers churches as automatically tax-exempt under the IRC. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not require churches to apply for or provide the IRS document verifying tax-exempt status (IRS Form 1023).

On September 29, 1999, the USDA issued a memorandum regarding the tax-exempt status of organizations, such as churches, and their participation in the CACFP and SFSP. It stated that CACFP organizations had to meet two basic requirements. They had to:
  • Be nonprofit (National School Lunch Act [NSLA] Section 17[a]), or
  • Have tax-exempt status or currently operate a federal program requiring nonprofit status (NSLA Section 17[d]; Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations [7 CFR], Section 226.15)

At that time, the SFSP required only that the organizations be nonprofit (7 CFR, sections 225.2 and 225.14[b]). Additionally, the memorandum made a distinction between an organization being “nonprofit” and “tax-exempt.” To qualify as tax-exempt, an organization must meet requirements in the federal IRC. The USDA acknowledged that, while it is not a federal requirement, some states required all private nonprofit agencies, including churches, to document their federal tax-exempt status.

A subsequent Policy Memorandum, SFSP 02-2011, clarified that in order to participate in the SFSP, private nonprofit organizations must have private nonprofit status under IRC Section 501(c) and be tax-exempt under IRC Section 501(a).


Churches applying for participation in either the CACFP or SFSP are not required to provide documentation of tax-exempt status, as long as they meet the IRC definition of a church or religious organization. All other private nonprofit organizations applying to participate in the CACFP or SFSP must provide documentation from the IRS to verify that the organization has tax-exempt status. Churches are the only private nonprofit organizations that are not required to obtain documentation of federal tax-exempt status. For purposes of program participation, the USDA considers a “church” to include the church’s auxiliaries; a convention or association of churches, synagogues, or religious orders; or a religious organization that is an integral part of a church.

Helpful Resources

For more information about the functions of a church, as described by the IRS, as well as information regarding the status of churches in the SFSP, please refer to the following publications:


If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the appropriate Nutrition Services Division Specialist for your agency.

CACFP: A contact list of CACFP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS), Form CACFP 01. You can also the Community Nutrition Programs Administration Office Technician, by phone at 916-327-2991 or by e-mail at, and they will direct you to your CACFP Specialist.

SFSP: A contact list of SFSP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS, Form SFSP 01. You can also contact the Community Nutrition Programs Administration Office Technician by phone at 916-322-8323 or by e-mail at, and they will direct you to your SFSP Specialist.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, July 06, 2023
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