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CNIPS Frequently Asked Questions for SNP

A list of frequently asked questions concerning School Nutrition Programs segments in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System.
Please select the category of questions that applies to you:

Sponsor FAQs


Q. Which of my current processes will the CNIPS replace?

A. The CNIPS will allow for online entry of:

  • New Sponsor Applications
  • Annual Updates
  • Site Applications
  • Site Change Requests
  • Reimbursement Claims Entry
  • Verification Reporting
  • Food Safety Inspection Reporting

Q. Can the physical address of the primary sponsor be changed in the CNIPS?

A. If you are a public school district, the primary sponsor physical address in the CNIPS is derived from the County-District-School (CDS) database, which is the official repository for district names and physical addresses. If you are a public school district, the primary sponsor address is “display only” in the CNIPS. Directions to change your district’s physical address are available on the Instructions for Submitting CDS Changes Web page. Within the CNIPS, sponsors will now have the opportunity to provide the CDE with their mailing address as well as food service director and official sponsor addresses, which can be updated (as necessary) in the system.

Q. Where can I find additional information about the CNIPS?

A. Additional information can be found on the CNIPS Project Information page.

Use of and Access to the CNIPS

Q. What do I need to access the CNIPS?

A. In order to access the CNIPS and submit applications to the Nutrition Services Division for approval, please have the Quick Start Guide (sent to you on August 15, 2008) available for reference in addition to your CNIPS ID and password.

Q. How do I obtain a User Name and Password for CNIPS?

A. If you have an existing agreement with the CDE to participate in a school meal program, contact the CNIPS Help Desk at 1-800-952-5609 and select option 6.

If you are a new sponsor, contact the School Nutrition Programs Unit at 800-952-5609, option 2.

After you log into the system for the first time with the User ID and password that are provided, the CNIPS will prompt you to immediately change the password. Please keep your password in a secure location for future reference.

Q. What if I need to change the name of the primary contact (either the designated CNIPS administrator or the food service director) to receive the CNIPS User ID and password?

A. Contact the CNIPS Help Desk at 1-800-952-5609 and select option 6 or send an e-mail request to Be sure to include your agency’s name and CNIPS ID number with your request.

Q. How often will my CNIPS password need to be changed?

A. Every 90 days, the CNIPS will prompt you to change your password.

Q. Will sponsors have the ability to allow different levels of access for employees within their agency?

A. Yes, the CNIPS Administrator or the food service director (may be the same for some sponsors) will have the ability to assign different authority levels of screen access to different users to meet business needs (e.g., claims submission, applications/renewals).

Q. What if I do not have access to the Internet?

A. We strongly recommended that all sponsors obtain access to the Internet by early spring 2008. Having Internet access is an essential component for using the CNIPS.

Q. How will sponsors be notified about their application and/or reimbursement claim status?

A. Sponsors can check the status of their application or claims at any given time by logging on to the CNIPS system and selecting the Application packet or Claim options to view the status of either their application or their claim.

Claims for Reimbursement

Q. What kind of quality control will there be for sponsors to ensure accuracy of their reimbursement claims prior to submission?

A. The CNIPS has validation edits and will display error messages to ensure errors are corrected prior to the claim being submitted. If there are errors in the claim after selecting the “Submit” button, the status field on the claim form will be “Error.”

Q. Will the CDE process claims more quickly once the CNIPS is implemented?

A. The claim process within CNIPS is quicker than the former paper based process; however, the State Controller’s processes in issuing checks will be not be affected.

Q. Must sponsors keep documentation proving they submitted a claim?

A. Though it is not required, sponsors are encouraged to print a copy of the claim form after submission is confirmed in the CNIPS.

Q. Will I still need to save all the documentation for the site-specific data submitted through the CNIPS as part of my Coordinated Review Effort after the CNIPS is implemented?

A. Yes. Save your backup site claim data in a retrievable format (electronically or in hard copy) regardless of whether you report site-specific claim data or sponsor-level data.

Q. If a district has a high rate of free and reduced-price meal participation which often exceeds the National Attendance Factor, will the CNIPS allow me to submit my claim? For example, if the National Attendance Factor is 93 percent and our meal participation is 98 percent, will the CNIPS accept our claim?

A. If the number of “Free Meals Served” exceeds the "Number of Children Approved to Receive Free Meals" multiplied by "Number of Operating Days" multiplied by "Attendance Factor,” the CNIPS will display a warning message; however, the system will still allow you to proceed with submitting the claim. You must keep documentation on file as to the reason for exceeding the National Attendance Factor.

Q. How will the CNIPS work with Point of Sale (POS) systems?

A. If you currently have a POS system, you will need to work with your POS vendor or your district Information Technology (IT) staff to extract and format the data according to the POS File Layout Specifications located on the CNIPS Project Information page.

Q. Can the CNIPS import site-specific data for my reimbursement claim?

Yes. The CNIPS can accept your agency’s site-specific claim information and aggregate it for sponsor-level claim purposes. In order to use the “Upload File” functionality, you will need to have your claim reporting indicator set to site-level by CDE staff. Contact the CNIPS Help Desk at 1-800-952-5609, option 6, to change your claim reporting indicator in CNIPS. The file must be formatted according to the POS File Layout specifications located on the CNIPS Web page.

Q. How do I submit a site-specific claim?

A. Your claim reporting indicator in CNIPS must be set to “site-level’ by CDE staff. All sponsors in CNIPS were defaulted to “sponsor level” when the CNIPS claim component was released. You may switch from sponsor-level to site-specific claiming or vice-versa at any time, but not within a given claim month. To change your agency’s claim reporting preferences, contact the Help Desk at 800-952-5609, option 6, or

NOTE: If you start a claim for a given claim month, the claim will remain defaulted to the selected claim reporting indicator (sponsor or site). If you want to change your claim reporting indicator for a claim month you have already begun, please contact the Help Desk for technical assistance.

Q. Why is the "Upload Data" button on the "Claim Month Details" screen disabled?

A. The “Upload Data” button is used to upload site-specific claim data directly from a file into CNIPS (e.g., Point of Sale file). The “Upload Data” button is only enabled when a sponsor’s claim reporting indicator is set to site-level.

Q. What if I am unable to claim meal supplements at the area eligible rate (i.e., all students are claimed at the free rate)?

A. Prior approval on your application is required to claim area eligible meal supplements. Check the site application: Section C, Item C5 must show that the site is area eligible and include qualifying data.

Q. What if I am unable to claim the Severe Need Breakfast meal reimbursement rate (aka: Especially Needy Breakfast Program?)

A. Your application must reflect that the site is approved to claim Severe Need Breakfast meals. Check the site application: Item 13 under Participation Information must include data to support the higher rate of reimbursement (e.g., two years prior the site had 40 percent or more of the lunches served free or at a reduced price).

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June Claims: Year-End Revenue and Cost Data

Q. When I try to enter my claim, I receive a message that states, “Claims are closed for the selected year.” Is there a problem with CNIPS?

A. No, there is not a problem with CNIPS. On June 1, the next school year opened for sponsors to complete their renewal applications and the CNIPS will default to the next school year. To access the current year claims:

  • Log into the CNIPs
  • Select Year in the upper right hand corner
  • Select the current yea
  • Select Claims
  • Select Claim Entry
  • Select June

Q. I cannot access June claims, how do I submit my year-end revenue and cost data.

A. You are unable to access the June claim because you are not currently operating any programs in the month of June and must first select June as a month of operation. To access the June claim: 

  • Log into the CNIPS
  • Select Applications
  • Select Application Packet
  • Select the current school year
  • Select Site Applications School Nutrition Programs
  • Select one of your school sites
  • Select the Effective Date to access the Site Application
  • Select Revise Application
  • In Question A1: Months of Operation; place a check mark in the box for June
  • Save the Site Application and Submit the Application Packet for Approval

Note: Please contact your School Nutrition Programs (SNP) specialist listed in the Download Forms section of the CNIPS to expedite the approval process to access the June claim. Once your application has been approved, you must complete the cost form as well as zero out the June reimbursement claim.

Q. After I enter my June claim for reimbursement, I receive an error message that reads, “June claim cannot be submitted until Revenue and Cost portion is filled out." How do I do this?

A. To access the year-end revenue and cost data sheet:

  • Log into the CNIPS
  • Select Year in the upper right hand corner
  • Select the current year
  • Select Claims
  • Select Claim Entry
  • Select June
  • Under Claim Items, select Costs
  • Complete the form and select Save
  • Submit the Claim for Payment

Q. Where can I find more detailed instructions on how to complete the year-end revenue and cost summary?

A. For detailed claim instructions, refer to the School Nutrition Program claim information Web page. If you have any specific questions regarding the year-end revenue and cost form, please contact Jackie Quenga at 916-322-8313 or

Claims for Reimbursement: Special Milk Program

Q: I am a Special Milk Sponsor who is non-pricing. I used to claim milks served in the total on the claim form. Where do I claim them now?

A: If you are a non-pricing milk sponsor, you should claim milk served on line M8-Paid Milk Served. If you do not enter any milks served on the claim, you will not receive a reimbursement, and the claim payment summary will show $0.00.

Q: How do I correct the error on my claim that states, "School Breakfast Program authorized sites claimed cannot exceed authorized sites approved on your School Breakfast Program application."?

A: To correct the error regarding “authorized sites claimed exceed authorized sites approved,” you need to reduce the number of sites claimed on B1- Authorized Sites. If you have a site that has served 40 percent or more free and reduced priced meals in FY 2006/2007, the site would be approved for the School Breakfast Severe Need Program on your CNIPS claim.

Q: How do I know if a site has served 40 percent or more free and reduced priced meals in FY 2006-07?

A: To find out if a site has served 40 percent or more free and reduced priced meals in FY 2006-07, check your CNIPS Application question #13.

Verification Reporting

Q. How do I submit annual verification results through the CNIPS?

A. National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) sponsors must submit the Verification Report via CNIPS by the due date displayed at the top of the Verification Report in the CNIPS.

Before beginning the report in CNIPS, please be aware of the following information:

  • The Verification Report is no longer on the CDE Web Page. It is now available only in CNIPS.
  • The annual Verification Report does not apply to Special Milk, State Meal, Seamless Summer Feeding Option or any school nutrition program other than the NSLP and SBP.
  • The following NSLP and SBP sponsors are exempt from submitting the Verification Report:
    • Special Milk sponsors
    • Outdoor education camps that do not collect meal applications

Steps to Complete the Verification Report via CNIPS

  • Log on to your CNIPS account.
  • Select Applications from the dark blue tool bar at the top of your screen.
  • Select Verification Report from the item list.
  • Complete the report. Select Save.
  • If “Saved with errors” is displayed, select Edit, make changes, and select Save.

Click Finish to return to the Applications menu.

Training and Technical Assistance

Q. What training and/or technical assistance is available for sponsors?

A. Several options for CNIPS training/technical assistance are available for sponsors, including:

  • Simulated training videos
  • The CNIPS User Manual
  • The integrated "Help" feature in the CNIPS
  • The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • The CNIPS “Quick Start” Guide

Q. Who should I call with questions?

A. The CNIPS Help Desk staff is available to provide assistance in navigation and use of the new Web-based system. The Help Desk telephone number is 1-800-952-5609. Select option 6 to access the CNIPS Help Desk.

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Point of Sale (POS) Vendors FAQs

Q. Where can I find the POS file layout specifications so I can program the export from the POS system in order for my customers to upload into the CNIPS system?

A. The POS data needs to be extracted and formatted according to the POS File Layout Specifications located on the CNIPS Project Information page. Refer to the POS File Specifications when you are reviewing the following questions and answers.

Q. How does a sponsor receive a Vendor Number?

A. All sponsors that have existing agreements with the Nutrition Services Division already have a Vendor Number. The Vendor Number is assigned to the sponsor during the initial application process by the California Department of Education’s Fiscal and Administrative Services Division, Accounting, CALSTARS Unit. Prior to receiving any form of payment from CDE, the sponsor completes the Payee Data Record (STD.204) (DOC) and is then provided a Vendor number. For the POS file purposes, the Vendor Number will be provided by the child nutrition sponsor. The Vendor Number identifies the sponsor to the State Controller's Office (SCO) who then issues reimbursement checks to the sponsor.

Q. How are CDS numbers entered in the CNIPS? Is this code entered manually by the district or are the numbers provided by the State?

A. The CDS Code is provided to the sponsor by the CDE, and not by the Nutrition Services Division (NSD). Visit the California School Directory page. The CDS codes can be provided to you by the sponsors. It is not a required field in the POS file format. If present the code will be used as a validation; however, it is not stored in the CNIPS tables from the POS source file.

Q. Is a license number required for the POS file?

A. No. The license number is not a required field in the POS file. Public school districts do not have license numbers. The license numbers are for RCCIs that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). If any of your clients are RCCIs, they can provide you with the license number which is specific to a site, not a sponsor.

Q. Does the sponsor name in the POS file have to match exactly what is in the CNIPS?

A. No. The sponsor name is the name of the organization (usually a district) with which NSD has an agreement to participate in the NSLP. The name does not have to exactly match the sponsor name in the CNIPS.

Q. CNIPS ID: Is this number added manually by the district or do we need to program and data entry area for the district?

A. The CNIPS ID is generated automatically by the CNIPS system and is the unique identifier for the POS file for the sponsor. Some POS Vendors have their clients enter their CNIPS (sponsor-level) and Site (site-level) IDs directly into the “back office” feature of their POS system.

Q. Does the site name in the POS file need to match exactly what is in the CNIPS? For example: Oak Elem School vs. Oak Elementary School?

A. No. The site name is the name of the site (usually a school) covered by a sponsor (usually a school district) with which NSD has an agreement to participate in the NSLP. The site name does not have to match exactly the name in the CNIPS, per your example above.

Q. General Information for G1 (and G2) — Number of children approved to receive free/reduced meals: Does this number come from the beginning/end of the month? Is it an average or highest/lowest within the month?

A. The number of children approved to receive free/reduced meals should be the highest number of children with approved applications for free and reduced priced meals at any given time during the month. This will ensure that the CNIPS will allow the correct number of free/reduced price meals served to be entered.

Q. Lunch L4/L5/L6 — Free/reduced/paid meals served: Is this only for reimbursable meals?

A. Yes.

Q. Breakfast B4/B5/B6 — Free/reduced/paid meals served: Is this only for reimbursable meals?

A. Yes.

Q. Breakfast Severe Need N4/N5/N6 — Free/reduced/paid meals served: Is this only for reimbursable meals?

A. Yes.

Q. California Fresh Start Program CF1 — Number of breakfasts served offering nutritious fruits and/or vegetables: Does this include any breakfast meal served as part of the California Fresh Start Program (CSFP)?

A. The CFSP is not currently funded; therefore, sponsors will not be submitting claims for this program. If the program were funded, the sponsor would claim all breakfast meals served at an approved CFSP site.

Q. Meal Supplements S1/S2 — Number of children approved to receive free/reduced price supplements: What do “supplements” refer to? Is this related to their free/reduced application? Is this a special serving period? Is it a serving period based on the next set of fields similar to breakfast and lunch above?

A. Supplements are "reimbursable snacks" that are served AFTER the end of the school day to students who are in an afterschool care program at the school site. The site would need to be approved as a National School Lunch Program sponsor and approved for After School Meal Supplements in order to claim meals/snacks.

Q. Meal Supplements S6/S7/S8 — Free/reduced/paid supplements served: Is this only for reimbursable meals?

A. Yes.

Q. Area Eligible S1 — Number of children approved to receive free supplements: Is this a ‘severe need’ version of the meal supplements program?

A. Yes. A site cannot claim meals served in BOTH area eligible and non-area eligible sites since a site can only be one or the other. Site eligibility is based on the student eligibility population of the site (50 per cent of the enrollment must be eligible for free and reduced priced meals to qualify).

Q. Area Eligible S6 — Free supplements served: Is this reimbursable for meals only?

A. Yes.

Q. Special Milk Program M4 — Children approved to receive free milk: Does this relate to household applications for free milk?

A. Yes, the site has to be approved to claim free milk and the site needs to have on file the approved household application for the child who is eligible for free milk.

Q. Special Milk Program M5 and M6 — Number of half pint fluid milks purchased: If we can only identify half pint fluid milk by menu button and category, is this satisfactory?

A. M5 and M6 are used to calculate the price per half pint of milk for which the sponsor is reimbursed. The price per half pint is used to reimburse free milk and it is an edit to prevent a sponsor paying more than $0.50 per half pint of milk. In addition, the amount purchased is compared to the amount served on a year-to-date calculation. There is an edit to prevent a sponsor serving more milks than purchased.

Q. Special Milk Program M6 — Total cost of fluid milk purchased this month: If the district is not using the Inventory module, can this be entered manually?

A. Yes. M5 and M6 are used to calculate the price per half pint of milk paid to the sponsor. For more detail, see the above answer.

Q. Special Milk Program M7/M8 — Free/reduced milks served: Is this only for reimbursable milk?[e.g., One half pint per student per day]

A. Yes, this is only for reimbursable milk under this program. Under the Special Milk Program, the sponsor can be reimbursed for the total number of half pints of milk served, which may be more than one per student.

Q. State Meals Only SM1/SM2 — Number of children approved to receive free/reduced price meals: Is this state vs. federal; and related to their free/reduced application?

A. This section of the CNIPS is not related to the federal Special Milk Program. It is only for the State Meal Program. Public school districts and county of superintendent of schools electing not to participate in the federal meal programs are required by State law to provide one nutritionally adequate meal per day to students eligible for free and reduced priced meals. If the district only wants to be reimbursed for children eligible for free and reduced price meals, they can apply for the State Meal Program. This program only processes state reimbursement for free and reduced priced breakfast and lunches served to needy children.

Q. State Meals Only SM6/SM7 — Free/reduced meals served: Is this only reimbursable meals?

A. Yes.

Q. Site ID: Is this entered by the district or extracted from the software?

A. The CNIPS Site ID is generated by the CNIPS system and is the unique identifier for that site claim POS file for the sponsor. The Site ID is a required field that matches the claim data from the POS file to the specific site in CNIPS. Some POS vendors have their clients enter the Site IDs directly into the “back office” feature of the POS system so the site ID is included in the export function from the POS system that creates the POS file to upload into the CNIPS system.

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Questions:   Help Desk | | 800-952-5609 Option 6
Last Reviewed: Thursday, February 6, 2020
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