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School Nutrition Programs Application Process

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) are federally funded programs available to all qualifying agencies which serve meals to students of high school grade or below.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) help to fight hunger and obesity by providing healthy meals to children. This web page is intended to provide the necessary information for interested agencies to apply to participate in these federally funded programs. To become a School Nutrition Program Operator, an agency must be either a public entity or a nonprofit organization with an Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) determination.

The NSLP and SBP are available to all qualifying agencies which serve meals to students of high school grade or below. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for overseeing the program nationally. In California, the NSLP and SBP are administered by the California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division. All participating agencies must operate a nonprofit program offering low-cost and free meals meeting federal requirements to all children in attendance.

The tabs below are divided by agency type and include information on the mandatory documents. It is recommended that all applicants become familiar with the different program requirements, rules, and regulations. The information provided under the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Resources tabs are also helpful and recommended to review prior to starting the application process.

Frequently Asked Questions

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How can a charter school apply to participate in the NSLP or SBP?

Please click on the Charter Schools tab for information and guidance.

How does it work?

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) are federal and state reimbursement programs for healthy, quality meals served that meet federal requirements. All NSLP and SBP Operators are required to offer free and reduced-price meals to eligible children. Reimbursement rates are established annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

What are the program operator's responsibilities for administering the School Nutrition Programs (SNP)?

Administrative responsibilities for the programs include but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining financial records to ensure nonprofit status
  • Providing applications for meal benefits to each household
  • Approving and/or denying applications for meal benefits
  • Verifying current income from a sample of households selected
  • Completing the direct certification process at least three times each year (unless exempt)
  • Ensuring meals meet federal nutrient standards
  • Taking meal counts by category at the point of service
  • Conducting a monthly edit check of meal counts
  • Conducting an on-site review of each school to ensure accurate counting and claiming of meals
  • Completing various reporting requirements
  • Submitting claims for reimbursement
  • Maintaining menu production logs, transportation logs, temperature logs, and other documentation as required to show program compliance
  • Bidding competitively for purchased food, supplies, equipment, and services

An annual application packet must be submitted each year in order to receive reimbursement. Application packets must be approved each year prior to monthly claim submission.

How are SNP Operators reimbursed for meals?

SNP Operators receive reimbursement based on the number of meals served to students per category: free, reduced-price, and paid.

How do I apply to participate in an SNP?

Prior to applying to participate in any nutrition program, it is important to confirm that all required documentation is available. For example, if your organization is required to submit an IRS 501(c)(3), make sure the document is available and that it meets the requirements outlined for the organization type. Please become familiar with the mandatory documentation for your agency on the associated tab for your agency type. It is also recommended that all applicants become familiar with the different program requirements, rules, and regulations. Please review the information provided on the Resources tab so that you are sure you can meet the requirements of the programs for which you are applying.

When you are ready to apply, contact the School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

I want to use my agency’s Articles of Incorporation rather than a 501(c)(3) to prove nonprofit status. Why must I provide a 501(c)(3)?

Articles of Incorporation are state issued documents which do not provide the required federal determination of nonprofit status. Nonprofit status can only be confirmed with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued 501(c)(3) letter of determination.

Why does the California Department of Education (CDE) require a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number?

The CDE requires a DUNS number to comply with mandatory federal reporting requirements. Agencies participating in the NSLP and SBP must obtain a DUNS number.

What happens if I do not submit all of the required documents?

If the SNP Operator fails to submit all required documents and/or respond to communications from the SNP Specialist within 30 calendar days from the date the initial application process email is sent, or when the SNP Operator’s Child Nutrition Information and Payment System username and password are provided, the SNP Operator will be notified by certified mail that they have an additional 30 calendar days to complete the application process. If the SNP Operator is unable to meet this deadline, the SNP Specialist will deny the application and close out the application process. The SNP Operator may apply again when they are better prepared to meet the SNP application requirements.

What is an administrative review (AR)?

The AR process is mandatory and designed to ensure that all participating SNP Operators comply with the federal and state program requirements of the CNPs. The CDE is mandated by the USDA to review every SNP Operator at least once during a three-year review cycle. This includes any new SNP Operators entering the program(s).

The CDE completes the AR to ensure program integrity and increase overall compliance, with the following objectives:

  • Determine if the SNP Operator is meeting all federal and state SNP requirements
  • Provide focused technical assistance to correct any findings
  • Secure necessary corrective action documentation demonstrating the SNP Operator’s permanent corrections
  • Assess fiscal action and recover improperly paid funds

For more information on the AR process, go to the CDE SNP AR web page.

What are the eligibility standards for free and reduced-price meals?

Schools are required to serve meals at no charge to children whose household income is at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Children are entitled to pay a reduced price if their household income is above 130 percent but at or below 185 percent of these guidelines. The current income and family size criteria can be found under the Income Eligibility Guidelines on the CDE Eligibility web page.

Children are automatically eligible for free school meals if their household receives benefits under CalFresh, California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR).

For more information on eligibility, please refer to the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals External link opens in new window or tab..

What are the meal requirements?

To qualify for reimbursement, SNP Operators must meet certain requirements depending upon the menu option they have selected for their school. For more information on meal requirements, please refer to the CDE School Menu Planning Options.

Are schools required to make menu substitutions for children who cannot eat the regular lunch or breakfast?

Yes. The USDA regulations under Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), sections 15b and 15b.26(d), implements Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 nondiscrimination requirements on recipients of federal financial assistance, such as SNP Operators, to serve special meals at no extra charge to children with disabilities. In addition, 7 CFR, sections 210.10(m) and 220.8(m), require SNP Operators to make substitutions or modifications in the NSLP and SBP for children whose disabilities restrict their diets.

When supported by a written medical statement from a state licensed healthcare professional, meal substitutions for children with disabilities that restrict the child’s diet, can be considered on a case-by-case basis. The CDE only permits the following state licensed healthcare professionals to complete and sign a written medical statement for a disability: Licensed physicians, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. For more information about accommodating children with special dietary needs due to a disability, please see CDE Management Bulletin SNP-02-2017. The USDA also provides information on their School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab..

How does an SNP Operator contract with a food service management company (FSMC) or vendor?

SNP Operators may contract with an FSMC or vendor to provide their meal services. SNP Operators are required to meet the federal procurement procedures and regulations that govern CNPs when developing the bid documents and awarding the contract. To ensure compliance with federal procurement procedures, SNP Operators must submit formal contract documents to the CDE for review prior to seeking bids. For additional information and forms, go to the CDE Procurement web page.

Are SNP Operators required to have a cafeteria fund for all revenue and expenses for SNPs?

Yes. SNP Operators must maintain a nonprofit school food service account per 7 CFR, Section 210.2. The cafeteria fund is a restricted account in which all of the revenue from all food service operations conducted by the SNP Operator, principally for the benefit of school children, is retained and used only for the operation or improvement of the nonprofit school food service. Revenue, when applied to the cafeteria fund, means all monies received by or accruing to the nonprofit school food service in accordance with the state agency's established accounting system. This includes, but is not limited to, student meal payments, earnings on investments, other local revenues, state revenues, interest, and federal cash reimbursements. For additional information, visit the CDE Cafeteria Fund Guidance web page.

What are the professional standards requirements?

The USDA established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the NSLP and SBP. The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all SNP directors, managers, and staff. These standards ensure that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

  • Minimum education standards: The USDA regulations in 7 CFR, Section 210.30(b)(1), established minimum education standards for hiring SNP directors in three local educational agency (LEA) student enrollment size categories: (1) 2,499 students or less, (2) 2,500–9,999 students, and (3) 10,000 or more students. For specific minimum requirements, refer to the Final Rule Summary Flyer on the USDA School Meals Professional Standards web page External link opens in new window or tab., as well as the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel web page, to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.
  • Minimum prior training standard: The USDA professional standards require all new SNP directors for all LEA sizes to complete at least eight hours of food safety training. They must complete this training within five years prior to their start date or within 30 days after their start date.
When can we receive reimbursement?

You cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process for participating in any of the meal programs. The CDE cannot project, estimate, or promise a start (approval) date throughout the application process. The approval date is determined by management once you have properly completed and submitted all application, policy, menu, health permit, and agreement documents; and submitted a complete packet. You can only begin claiming reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by management. The actual approval date will depend on your responsiveness during the application process and timely submission of required documentation. SNP Operators are not reimbursed during or prior to the application process.

The SNP Operator’s application can only be approved retroactively to the beginning of the month in which the SNPU management approves the application packet. This only applies when the SNP Operator has a complete menu certification packet on file covering the month prior, has conducted eligibility on all enrolled students for the month prior, and has taken daily point-of-service meal counts—by eligibility—for every meal period for the month prior. The SNP Operator will receive written correspondence notifying them of when the application packet has been approved and the start date of their meal or milk reimbursement.

 

Resources

Program Operation Resources

  • CDE Cafeteria Fund Guidance web page
    Provides School Nutrition Program (SNP) Operators with information and instructions pertaining to federal and state statutes and regulations that govern school cafeteria funds.

  • CDE Competitive Foods and Beverages web page
    Provides information, tools, and resources to groups and individuals selling foods and beverages to students, during the school day, on school campus, that are outside of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) school meal program—areas such as fundraising, vending machines, and student stores.

  • CDE SNP Eligibility web page
    Provides eligibility resources regarding SNP applications, forms, and other materials for school meal, milk, and State Meal Program eligibility.

  • CDE SNP Verification Materials web page
    Provides access to verification materials including applications, forms, and materials for the annual, mandatory verification process for eligibility of a sample of completed household meal eligibility applications.

Food Distribution Program

  • CDE Food Distribution web page
    Provides information about the CDE Food Distribution Program (FDP) including USDA Foods, Department of Defense fresh produce, state distribution centers, processing of USDA Foods, and staff contact information.

  • USDA FDP web page External link opens in new window or tab.
    Provides information about the USDA FDP including federal resources, training, and information related to USDA Foods.

Meal Pattern Resources

Procurement

  • CDE Procurement in SNP web page
    Provides federal procurement regulations for SNP Operators contracting with food service management companies, vendors, or competitively procuring food.

Professional Standards Resources

Training Opportunities

The California Professional Education and Training (Cal-Pro-NET) Center is a joint project among the CDE and selected California colleges to provide opportunities for professional development to California child nutrition personnel.

    • Cal-Pro-NET Center External link opens in new window or tab.
      The SNP Primer is a web-based resource that serves as an introductory resource for new SNP Operators and helps ensure success and compliance with federal and state regulations. In addition, the resources and tools assist new staff and existing SNP Operators with the program requirements.

Additional Resources

  • CDE After School web page
    Provides information about the At-risk Afterschool Meals component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

  • CDE CACFP web page
    Provides information about meal programs offered at public and private child care centers, day care homes, adult day care centers, and homeless shelters under the CACFP.

  • USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab.
    Provides comprehensive information on federal requirements, policies, and procedures, and is intended to help agencies accurately determine, certify, and verify children’s eligibility for free and reduced-price (F/RP) school meals and free milk.

  • USDA Team Nutrition (TN) web page External link opens in new window or tab.
    TN is an initiative of the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to support the SNP Operators through training and technical assistance for food service, nutrition education for children and their caregivers, and school and community support for healthy eating and physical activity. Free USDA TN materials are available to school nutrition professionals and designed to motivate children into making healthier choices in the cafeteria and beyond.

Definitions

Below are definitions for some of the most common terms used in the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP).

Administrative Review (AR): An evaluation conducted by the California Department of Education (CDE) that is mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).The AR process is designed to ensure that all participating School Nutrition Program (SNP) Operators and agencies comply with the federal and state program requirements of the CNPs. The CDE is mandated by the USDA to review every SNP Operator at least once during a three-year review cycle. This includes any new school food authorities (SFA) entering the program(s). The schedule of reviews is subject to change and you will receive an AR notification e-mail when you are scheduled for a review.

Afterschool Meal Supplement (Snacks): All programs that meet the eligibility requirements can participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and receive USDA reimbursement for afterschool snacks. A school must provide children with regularly scheduled activities in an organized, structured and supervised environment; and include educational or enrichment activities (e.g., mentoring or tutoring programs).Competitive interscholastic sport teams are not an eligible afterschool program.

Alternate Meal: Although an alternate meal (also known as an emergency meal) is not clearly defined in federal or California state regulations, the use of alternate meals refers to any meal served to a student that is different from the day’s advertised meal. Alternate meals are most often provided to students who have documented doctor-approved meal substitutions, or to those students who have lost or forgotten their meal payment(s) or medium of exchange. While schools are not obligated to provide meals to students eligible for paid meals who lose or forget their meal money, schools may serve these children an alternate meal, which may or may not qualify for reimbursement under the federal CNP regulations. Per California Education Code (EC) Section 49557(c), students who receive reduced-priced meal benefits cannot be served alternate meals. Further information on alternate meals can be found in the CDE Management Bulletins SNP-03-2017 and SNP-05-2018.

Assistance Programs: Receipt of benefits by any household member from certain assistance programs conveys categorical (automatic) eligibility for free school meals to all children in the household. The determination is made through direct certification for assistance programs or through an application with appropriate case numbers. The assistance programs that convey categorical eligibility to all children in the household are:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as CalFresh in California)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, known as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids [CalWORKs] in California)

Automated Data Matching: Automated data matching is the most common method used to directly certify children. Matches are made between student enrollment records and benefit recipient records from assistance programs, foster care agencies, Head Start programs, migrant education programs, agencies working with homeless and runaway children, or other appropriate state or local agencies to establish categorical eligibility.

Bad Debt: Bad debt is unrecovered/delinquent debt that, after all reasonable steps have been taken, has not been recovered by, or before, the end of the school year in which the debt was incurred.

Buy American Provision (BAP): In the NSLP and School Breakfast Program (SBP), for all solicitations and contracts, the USDA requires SFAs to include BAP language that states that only foods which are 100 percent domestically grown and processed will receive an approval for purchase. The SFA must also include the BAP requirement in its documented procurement procedures and retain records documenting any exceptions. All responsive and responsible bidders must acknowledge and agree to comply with the BAP.

Cafeteria Fund: Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), governs a nonprofit school’s food service account, known as the cafeteria fund. SFAs participating in the NSLP, SBP, and Special Milk Program must establish a cafeteria fund (7 CFR, Section 210.9[b][1]). All federal, state, and local revenues, payments, and program reimbursements must be deposited into the cafeteria fund and are to be used solely for the operation and improvement of this service. In addition, SNP Operators must comply with state and federal limitations on the use of cafeteria funds.

CalFresh: A federally mandated, state-supervised, and county-operated government entitlement program that provides monthly food benefits to assist low-income households in purchasing the food they need to maintain adequate nutritional levels. Children from households that receive benefits under CalFresh are deemed categorically eligible for free school meals. CalFresh is federally known as SNAP.

California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS): A longitudinal data system used to maintain individual-level data including student demographics, course data, discipline, assessments, staff assignments, and other data for state and federal reporting.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs): A federally designated, state-funded and county-operated public assistanceprogram that providescash aid and services to eligible families that have a child(ren) in the home. Children from households that receive benefits under CalWORKs are deemed categorically eligible for free school meals. CalWORKs is federally known as TANF.

Carryover of Eligibility: When a child transitions from one standard counting and claiming school to another standard counting and claiming school within the same local educational agency (LEA) between school years, the child’s eligibility status from the previous school year is carried into the current school year for up to 30 operating days, beginning on the first operating day of school. A child’s prior year’s eligibility remains in effect until a new eligibility determination is made or, if no determination is made, for up to 30 operating days (7 CFR, Section 245.6[c][2]).

Categorical Eligibility: Automatic eligibility for free meals or free milk due to a child’s (or any household member’s) receipt of benefits under an assistance program, or a child’s designation as Other Source Categorically Eligible (7 CFR, Section 245.2). There are two ways children may be classified as categorically eligible:

  • Participation in an assistance program (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][7]): A child or any member of the household receives benefits from an assistance program as determined either through direct certification (DC) or an application with the appropriate case number.
  • Other Source Categorically Eligible designation (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][8]): A child is documented as meeting the applicable definition, as defined in this section, as:
    • Homeless, runaway, or migrant child
    • Foster child
    • A child enrolled in a federally funded Head Start or comparable state or Indian Tribal Organization-funded Head Start or prekindergarten program

An individual child’s eligibility for free benefits under any of the Other Source Categorical Eligibility Programs does not convey to other children in the household (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][8]). Except for a foster child, the household indication of Other Source Categorically Eligible status must be confirmed through documentation prior to certifying the child’s eligibility for free meals. If documentation does not confirm eligibility for an Other Source Categorical Eligibility, the household should be asked to resubmit the application and include income information.

Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS): The CDE web-based system for administering the federal and state Child Nutrition Programs (CNP), including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Food Distribution, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and Seamless Summer Option Programs.

Community Eligibility Provision (CEP): CEP was implemented as a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). It is one of the federal provisions to increase access to the NSLP and SBP while decreasing administrative burden at the LEA level; specifically through an alternative method for claiming student meals in high poverty schools.

Competitive Foods: All foods and beverages sold to students on school campus during the school day outside the reimbursable meal programs (7 CFR, Section 210.11[a][2]). For more information on serving competitive foods in California, please visit the CDE Competitive Foods and Beverages web page.

Determining Official: A determining official is an LEA official responsible for determining children’s eligibility for free and reduced-price (F/RP) benefits. An employee of a food service management company (FSMC) may act as an agent for the LEA in various aspects of the application, certification, and verification processes. The company’s employee must comply with all requirements, including limited disclosure of individual eligibility information. However, the LEA is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all requirements are met and that the information on the application remains the property of the LEA and may not be used or possessed by the FSMC for any use other than to determine eligibility for F/RP meals. This also applies when an LEA and/or CNP Operator contracts with an Educational Service Provider to manage these functions. Refer to USDA Policy Memorandum SP 07-2008: Charter School Involvement in the NSLP and SBP External link opens in new window or tab..

Direct Certification (DC): Determining children eligible for free benefits based on documentation obtained directly from appropriate state or local agencies or other authorized individuals. DC of a child’s eligibility status should not involve the household. The communication exchange should be between an appropriate agency and the state agency, LEA, or school.

DC for Assistance Programs: DC with assistance programs is a federally mandated process that SNP Operators must use to certify school-age recipients of CalFresh (formerly Food Stamps) and CalWORKs benefits as eligible for free school meals without further application. Letters from CalWORKs and FDPIR agencies submitted by households are considered DC. However, DC for CalFresh households must be conducted using an automated data matching process (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][1]). If a household provides a CalFresh eligibility letter to the LEA or school, the letter must be used to establish eligibility, but it is not considered DC for reporting purposes.

DC for Other Source Categorically Eligible Programs: A process conducted through an automated data matching or an exchange of information between appropriate state or local agencies and officials from Other Source Categorical Eligibility Programs, such as the LEA’s homeless liaison. DC also may be conducted using lists of eligible children provided to the state agency or LEA from appropriate officials of these programs. Letters and contacts from officials of these programs may also be used as DC (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][2]).

Direct Verification: The use of public records as a means to verify children’s eligibility for F/RP benefits. Direct verification may be conducted with assistance program agencies or appropriate officials of Other Source Categorical Eligibility Programs to confirm eligibility for free meals. Direct verification may be used for applications included in the verification sample or those verified for cause (7 CFR, Section 245.6a[g]).

Disaster Relief: Schools and/or districts participating in the NSLP are allowed flexibility in providing meals to children and food to affected communities during state or federally declared disasters.

Error Prone: Applications within $100 per month of the applicable Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Extension of Categorical Eligibility for Assistance Programs: A child or other household member’s receipt of benefits from an assistance program automatically extends eligibility for free benefits to all children who are members of the household (7 CFR, Section 245.6[b][7]).

Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR): FDPIR is a federal program that provides USDA Foods to low-income households living on Indian reservations. Children from households that receive benefits from FDPIR are deemed categorically eligible for free school meals.

Food Service Management Company (FSMC): An FSMC is a commercial enterprise or a nonprofit organization that may be contracted with by the SFA or LEA to manage any aspect of the school food service.

Formal Procurement: A formal procurement process is primarily used to purchase food and/or services when the one-year procurement cost exceeds the applicable small purchase threshold. This situation applies to most contracts between SNP Operators and FSMCs. As part of the competitive bidding process, SNP Operators must issue and publicly advertise a Request for Proposal or Invitation for Bid for any procurement equal to or over the applicable small purchase threshold.

Foster Child: An Other Source Categorical Eligibility designation for a child who is formally placed by a court or a state child welfare agency. Whether placed by the state child welfare agency or a court, in order for a child to be considered categorically eligible for free meals, the state must retain legal custody of the child. This definition does not apply to informal arrangements or permanent guardianship placements that may exist outside of state or court-based systems (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Free Meal: A meal served in the NSLP or SBP to a child eligible for such benefits under 7 CFR, Section 245.2. Neither the child nor any member of the household pays or is required to work in the school or in the school’s food service to receive a free meal.

Free Milk: Milk served in the Special Milk Program to a child eligible for free milk per 7 CFR, Section 245.2. Neither the child nor any member of the household pays or is required to work in the school or in the school’s food service to receive free milk.

Head Start: An Other Source Categorical Eligibility Program, which refers to federal Head Start and any state-funded prekindergarten program that use eligibility criteria that are identical or more stringent than federal Head Start (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Homeless: An Other Source Categorical Eligibility Program designation for a child who is identified by the LEA’s homeless liaison or by an official of a homeless shelter as lacking a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Household: A group of related or nonrelated individuals who are living as one economic unit. The term family has the same definition as household per 7 CFR, Section 245.2.

Income Eligibility Guidelines (IEG): The family-size income levels prescribed annually by the Secretary of Agriculture for determining eligibility for F/RP meals and free milk. The free guidelines are 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. The reduced price guidelines are 185 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Local Educational Agency (LEA): Per 7 CFR, Section 210.2, the term “local educational agency” refers to:

  • A public board of education or other public or private nonprofit authority legally constituted within a state for the administrative control of public or private nonprofit schools in a political subdivision of a state
  • An administrative agency or combination of school districts recognized by the state
  • Any other public or private nonprofit agency with administrative control and direction of public or private nonprofit schools or residential child care institutions (RCCI)

Limited English Proficiency (LEP): A limited ability to read, speak, write, or understand English. LEAs, schools, and other entities that receive federal financial assistance—including reimbursements for meals from the USDA—must take reasonable steps to ensure meaningful access to their programs and activities by persons with LEP.

Local School Wellness Policy (LSWP): LEAs that participate in the NSLP, SBP, or any other federal CNPs are required by federal law to establish an LSWP for all schools under its jurisdiction. LSWPs are an important tool for parents, LEAs, and school districts in promoting student wellness, preventing and reducing childhood obesity, and providing assurance that school meal nutrition guidelines meet the minimum federal school meal standards.

Meal Vendor: Companies that prepare and deliver meals to SFAs. A meal vendor may also develop menus and menu production records. Meal vendors may not access individual student meal eligibility information, collect meal payments, conduct point-of-service meal counts, provide program oversight, collect claim data, or act as an employee of or agent for the SFA.

Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California): The program of medical assistance established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, Title 42 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1396. This definition encompasses both regular Medicaid programs and expanded Medicaid programs where states have used funding from Title XXI of the Social Security Act to fund Medicaid expansions to reach children in families with higher incomes.

Migrant: An Other Source Categorical Eligibility designation for a child who is enrolled in the Migrant Education Program as determined by the state or local Migrant Education Program coordinator or as documented by an appropriate LEA official, such as the homeless liaison (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Mixed Households: Those households that include children designated as Other Source Categorically Eligible and other children who are not (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

National School Lunch Program (NSLP): The NSLP is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit schools and RCCIs. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act (NSLA), signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

Net Cash Resources: All monies (as determined by the California School Accounting Manual), that are available or have accrued to an SFA’s nonprofit school food service at any given time, less cash payable. Such monies may include, but are not limited to, cash on hand, cash receivables, earnings on investments, cash on deposit, and the value of stocks, bonds, or other negotiable securities.

Nondiscrimination Statement: All forms of communication available to the public regarding program availability must contain the appropriate nondiscrimination statement. The nondiscrimination statement must be prominently displayed on the document.

Nutritionally Adequate Meal: A nutritionally adequate meal is a breakfast or lunch, as defined in the EC Section 49531, which qualifies for reimbursement under the federal CNP regulations.

Operating Days: The days on which reimbursable meals or milk are provided by a school or another SNP Operator (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Other Source Categorically Eligible: Categories that make children automatically eligible for free benefits, either through direct certification or application. A child’s eligibility for free benefits under Other Source Categorical Eligibility does not extend to any other child in the household. A child is Other Source Categorically Eligible if they are:

  • Enrolled in federal Head Start
  • Enrolled in state or Indian Tribal Organization funded prekindergarten programs that use eligibility criteria that are identical to or more stringent than federal Head Start
  • Determined to be homeless by the LEA’s homeless liaison or by an official of a homeless shelter
  • Determined to be a migrant by the state or local Migrant Education Program coordinator or homeless liaison
  • Determined to be a runaway who is identified by the local education liaison as receiving assistance through a program under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
  • Determined to be a foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the state or who is formally placed by a court with a caretaker household through which the state retains legal custody of the child

Overt Identification: Any action that may result in a child being recognized as certified for (or potentially eligible to receive) F/RP school meals or free milk. LEAs and SFAs must assure that a child’s eligibility status is not disclosed at any point in the process of providing F/RP meals or free milk, including:

  • When the child or household is notified of the availability of F/RP benefits
  • During certification and notification of eligibility
  • During the provision of meals in the cafeteria
  • At the point of service
  • During the provision of additional services, such as educational services to low income children
  • When the child pays for their meals

Procurement: A multistep process for obtaining goods and services at the lowest possible price. The steps in this process include planning, writing specifications, advertising the procurement, awarding a contract, and managing the contract.

Professional Standards: The USDA established minimum professional standards for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the NSLP and SBP. These standards address Section 306 of the HHFKA. The standards will ensure that school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Provisions: Provisions are methods for reducing paperwork and other administrative burdens at the local level by simplifying the traditional operating procedures for meal eligibility and meal counting. Schools must apply to participate in provisions and receive approval from the CDE prior to implementation.

Reduced-price Meal: A meal served in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program to a child from a household eligible for such benefits under 7 CFR, Part 245; for which the price does not exceed the maximum allowable reduced price specified under 7 CFR, Part 245; and for which neither the child nor any member of the household is required to work.

Residential Child Care Institution (RCCI): Any distinct part of a public or nonprofit private institution that:

  • Maintains children in residence
  • Operates principally for the care of children
  • If private, is licensed by the state or local government to provide residential child care services under the appropriate licensing code

The definitions of school and child in 7 CFR, sections 210.2, 215.2, and 220.2, outline the requirements for eligible RCCIs and eligible residents.

Runaway: An Other Source Categorical Eligibility designation for a child who is identified by the LEA’s homeless liaison or a program official as receiving assistance from a program under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (7 CFR, Section 245.2).

Sample Pool: The total number of approved applications on file as of October 1 of the current school year.

Sample Size: The number of applications subject to verification. The minimum and maximum sample size is 3 percent of the total or 3,000 applications, whichever is less.

School: (a) An educational unit of high school grade or under, recognized as part of the educational system in the state and operating under public or nonprofit private ownership in a single building or complex of buildings; (b) any public or nonprofit private classes of preprimary grade when they are conducted in the aforementioned schools; or (c) any public or nonprofit private RCCI, or distinct part of such institution, which operates principally for the care of children, and, if private, is licensed to provide residential child care services under the appropriate licensing code by the state or a subordinate level of government, except for residential summer camps which participate in the Summer Food Service Program for Children, Job Corps centers funded by the Department of Labor, and private foster homes. The term RCCI includes, but is not limited to: homes for the mentally, emotionally or physically impaired, and unmarried mothers and their infants; group homes; halfway houses; orphanages; temporary shelters for abused children and for runaway children; long-term care facilities for chronically ill children; and juvenile detention centers. A long-term care facility is a hospital, skilled nursing facility, intermediate care facility, or distinct part thereof, which is intended for the care of children confined for 30 days or more.

School Breakfast Program (SBP): The SBP is a federally funded meal program operated by schools and other agencies to provide nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free breakfasts to children.

School Campus: All areas of the property under the jurisdiction of the school that are accessible to students during the school day (7 CFR, Section 210.11[a][4]).

School Food Authority (SFA): The governing body responsible for the administration of one or more schools. The SFA has the authority to enter into a legal agreement with the state administrating agency to operate the school meal programs (7 CFR, Section 210.2).

School Year (SY): The period from July 1 through June 30 (7 CFR, Section 210.2).

Severe Need Breakfast Reimbursement: Severe need eligible schools are those schools that served at least 40 percent F/RP lunches two school years prior. These schools are eligible for a higher rate of breakfast reimbursement.

State Meal Mandate: EC Section 49550 requires all public school districts and county superintendents of schools to make available, free or at a reduced-price, one nutritionally adequate meal to each needy student every school day. A needy student is one who qualifies for F/RP meals, according to specified family size and income standards.

State Meal Program: The State Meal Program is a CNP funded by the State of California. The program provides money to public school districts and county superintendents of schools that serve nutritious meals, free or at a reduced-price, to needy children, in compliance with state law.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as CalFresh in California): SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. Children from households that receive benefits under SNAP are deemed categorically eligible for free school meals.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, known as CalWORKs in California): A federal designation for a state-funded program under Part A of Title IV of the SSA. Children from households that receive benefits under TANF are deemed categorically eligible for free school meals.

Verification: Section 9(b)(3) of the NSLA and regulations at 7 CFR, Section 245.6a(c)(1), establish requirements for LEAs in conducting verification of eligibility for F/RP meals based on applications in participating schools. Verification is only required when eligibility is determined through the application process, and is not required for eligibility determinations made through the DC process.

Verification for Cause: LEAs must annually verify eligibility of children from a sample of household applications approved for F/RP meals. In addition to the annual verification, 7 CFR, Section 245.6a(c)(7), requires LEAs to verify any questionable application for cause. Verification for cause may take place anytime during the school year. The USDA supports the use of verification for cause when appropriate.

Verification Reporting: The verification report is an annual, mandatory process by which SFAs report the results of their eligibility verification process. All agencies that participate in the NSLP or SBP are required to complete the verification report, including those that are exempt from the eligibility verification process.

Without Further Application: “Without further application” means that no action is required by the household of a child who has been directly certified to receive free meal benefits (42 U.S.C. 1758[b][4][G][i]).

Working Days: The days when school is open and teachers or school administration are on site, but the reimbursable meal service is not in operation.

Public Schools District, County Office of Education, Tribal, or Other Governmental Entity (federal, state, city, juvenile detention facility, etc.)

To begin the application process, please contact your assigned School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) analyst. The SNPU analyst will send a template e-mail detailing the necessary steps to start the application process and how to become a new School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Operator, including any required documents that must be submitted. Please review the below items to ensure you are ready to apply.

California School Directory

The SNPU analyst will verify that your agency has an active status with the California School Directory. To confirm your school’s status, please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) School Directory.

Required Documents

The following documents need to be submitted for a complete application packet. You will find more details on documentation requirements below:

  • W-9 Form
  • Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)
  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)
  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)
  • Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application Packet
  • Copy of food service management company (FSMC) or vendor contract (if applicable)
  • CNIPS User Acceptance (Form ID CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-03)
  • Certificate of Compliance—Direct Certification with Medicaid (Form ID SNP-69)
  • Health permit for each food service site
  • Menu Certification Packet

Obtain a Vendor Number

In order to conduct business and submit reimbursement claims to the CDE, you must establish a vendor number. A vendor number allows the agency to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE. You will be asked to submit the following documentation by mail:

  • W-9 Form
  • DUNS Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept these documents if they are submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Professional Standards Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all SNP directors, managers, and staff. These standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Review the USDA School Meals Professional Standards External link opens in new window or tab. and the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.

You will be asked to submit the following documentation by mail:

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

New Sponsor Acknowledgement

SNP Operators cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process being completed and approved by the CDE. New SNP Operators can claim reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by the CDE.

You will be asked to submit the following documentation by mail:

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application

Once the vendor number has been issued, your assigned county analyst will grant administrator access to the CNIPS to the school’s director or authorized official. You must complete the CNIPS Application Packet, which is a series of forms you will complete and submit electronically. Please review the CNIPS instructions that will be provided to you in an e-mail. Based on the information you provide in the Application Packet, the Checklist section may display a list of additional documents that you must complete or upload. Once you have completed all required sections and uploaded any required documents, you will be able to submit your Application Packet for review.

The CNIPS Online Application Packet will include:

  • Complete Sponsor Application
  • Complete Site Application—one application per physical feeding location
    • A site is the physical location, exact address, where:
      • Program meals are served to students
      • Students consume a complete reimbursable meal
      • The SNP Operator will claim the meals they served to the students
  • SB 80 Certification, if applicable

Meal Vendor or Food Service Management Company Contract

If your agency contracts with a private meal vendor or an FSMC, you must complete this section in the CNIPS:

  • If using a meal vendor (private company), complete the following:
    • Vendor Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the vendor contract to the checklist
  • If using an FSMC, complete the following:
    • FSMC Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the FSMC contract and bid package to the checklist

For additional information on contracts and the procurement process, review the CDE Procurement in SNP web page or contact the Procurement Resources Unit by e-mail at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

CNIPS Required Documents

Complete all documents noted below with an original signature from an authorized official employed by your agency. You will be given access to these documents when you are granted access to the CNIPS. You will be asked to submit the following documentation by mail:

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (Form ID CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-03)
  • Certificate of Compliance—Direct Certification with Medicaid (Form ID SNP-69)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept these documents if they are submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Health Permit

A current and valid health permit must be submitted for each site application. Receipt of a health permit is required whether the food is prepared on site or is received from an outside source. If the school does not currently have a valid health permit, it is recommended that an inspection be scheduled with the local county health department as quickly as possible.

The USDA requires that all schools participating in the NSLP and/or SBP receive two food safety inspections annually. Once the initial food safety inspection is completed, the school would obtain a health permit. The school must contact their local county health department to schedule the required two inspections each school year.

Menu Certification

Providing students with quality nutritious meals is one of the goals of the NSLP and SBP. All prospective SNP Operators must submit a complete Menu Certification Packet prior to approval. Our Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) will contact you and provide guidance on the required menu certification process.

The following documents will be requested and instructions for submission will be provided when the CNC contacts you:

  • Menus—one full week of each menu offered by grade group for the current month or month prior
  • USDA Menu Worksheets
  • Nutrient Analysis (must be a USDA-approved nutrient analysis software program) or Simplified Nutrient Assessment (part of the USDA Menu Worksheet)
  • Menu Certification Submittal Form (Form ID SNP-28)
  • Site List (Form ID SNP-29)
  • Attestation

The above documents will be submitted on a USB flash drive or CD, with the exception of the Attestation which requires an original signature of the CNIPS Sponsor Official. The above documents must be submitted together to the CNC.

The USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides information regarding the meal pattern, certification, and menu worksheets.

When you are ready, contact the SNPU at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

Charter Schools

Locally Funded Charter School

Locally funded charter schools are not eligible to participate as a School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Operator in any of the meal programs. They can only participate as a site under their chartering school district and should contact the district about joining their meal program agreement.

Directly Funded Charter School

To begin the application process, please contact your assigned School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) analyst. A list of SNPU analysts is located in the CNIPS Download Forms section, titled Caseload. The SNPU analyst will send a template email detailing the necessary steps to start the application process and how to become a new SNP Operator, including the required documents that must be submitted. Please review the information below to ensure you are ready to apply.

Charter School Frequently Asked Questions

FEDERAL CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS

What federal Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) are available to charter schools?

Directly funded charter schools may participate as sponsors of CNPs as long as they meet the definition of public schools, as determined by state law and as recognized by the state educational system, per Section 9(d)(5) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, 42 USC 1760(d)(5), Section 15(3) of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, 42 USC 1784(3), and program regulations at Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR), Section 210.2 NSLP and 7 CFR, Section 220.2 SBP.

The NSLP and SBP are the most well-known school-based, federal CNP. The CNPs are administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through state agencies. These nutrition programs are intended to help prevent food insecurity by reimbursing organizations, schools, childcare centers, and after-school programs for the healthy, nutritious meals and snacks served to eligible children. Additional information on each of these CNPs is provided below.

  • NSLP and SBP: The NSLP and SBP are federally assisted meal programs operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions (RCCI) that provide nutritionally balanced breakfasts and lunches that meet spedific meal standards to eligible children each school day. For more information, please visit the USDA NSLP web page External link opens in new window or tab. and the USDA SBP web page External link opens in new window or tab..

    School food authorities (SFA) have the option of serving afterschool snacks through the NSLP. In addition, SFAs currently administering the NSLP or SBP can provide breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper during the summer months through the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) of the NSLP. For more information about these options, please visit the USDA School Meals Afterschool Snacks web page External link opens in new window or tab. and the USDA School Meals An Opportunity for Schools web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP): The FFVP is a grant that provides participating elementary schools funding to purchase additional fruits and vegetables to be served outside of the NSLP and SBP. Elementary schools with high-need students submit an application to participate in the FFVP. For more information, please visit the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • Special Milk Program (SMP): The SMP provides milk to children in schools and childcare institutions that do not participate in other CNPs. The SMP reimburses schools and childcare institutions for milk served. Schools in the NSLP or SBP may also participate in the SMP to provide milk to children in half-day prekindergarten and kindergarten programs where children do not have access to the NSLP or SBP. For more information, please visit the USDA Special Milk Program web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): The At-risk Afterschool Meals Component of CACFP provides funding to afterschool programs that serve a meal and/or snacks to children and teens in low-income areas. For more information, please visit the USDA CACFP web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) reimburses providers who serve free nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas during the summer months when school is not in session. Schools that have the ability to manage a food service program may be SFSP Sponsors and enter into agreements with state agencies to run the SFSP. For more information, please visit the USDA SFSP web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • Farm to School Program (F2S): The F2S helps CNP Operators incorporate local foods into their menus. A F2S regional lead is available to provide F2S support through grants, training, and technical assistance in their region. For more information about F2S, including a list of regional contacts, please visit the USDA Community Food Systems web page External link opens in new window or tab..

  • Farm to Summer Program: Schools and nonprofit sponsors offering USDA’s Summer Meal Programs can capitalize on the many opportunities that summer brings to serve fresh, local foods and hands-on activities that help children develop healthy habits. For more information, please visit the USDA Community Food Systems web page External link opens in new window or tab..

CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY

If a charter school initially serves kindergarten through third grade, and then adds subsequent grade levels with each new school year, does that affect the school’s ability to participate in the CNPs?

No, schools serving children through grade 12 may participate in the NSLP and SBP. Adding or subtracting grades does not affect a school’s eligibility to participate in CNPs. However, the meal pattern requirements vary by grade to meet the specific nutrient needs of the children being served. Additional information on meal pattern requirements for schools is available at the USDA Nutrition Standards for School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab.. For more information regarding the CACFP, please visit the USDA CACFP web page External link opens in new window or tab.. The state agency/SFA must update the agreement to reflect any grades (or sites) that are added.


ADMINISTRATION AND OPERATIONS

How do charter schools differ from traditional public schools?

In lieu of adhering to the standard education requirements for traditional public schools, charter schools operate under an individual charter, or contract, with a public body, generally a state or local board of education. These charters stipulate how the school must operate and how well the students will perform. The charter is granted from an authorizer such as a school district, the CDE, or independent authorizing board. The charter school operates with an independent board of directors that may include community, civic and business leaders, and parents. The board of directors legally overseas the operation of the school and holds the agreements and contracts with state entities on behalf of the charter school.

What is an SFA? Can a charter school be its own SFA?

An SFA is defined as the governing body responsible for the administration of one or more schools. It is also the entity that has the legal authority to operate the School Nutrition Programs (SNP) (7 CFR, Section 210.2). An SFA must enter into an agreement with the CDE to operate the CNPs. Requirements for the agreement can be found at 7 CFR, Section 210.9 as well as the CDE SNP Application Process web page.

A charter school may participate as an SFA and sign its own agreement with the CDE or participate as part of another SFA. Operating the SNP as part of another SFA can streamline responsibilities involved in administering the programs. While it is the charter school board of directors that signs the agreement with the CDE to operate the NSLP and SBP, we generally refer to charter school rather than the board of directors in the questions and answers, with the understanding that the charter school operates in conjunction with the board of directors as the legal authority.

Could a charter school enter into an agreement with another SFA to assist with program administration?

Yes, a charter school may enter into an agreement with another SFA. Under such an agreement, the other SFA could assume responsibility for various program services, such as determining and verifying eligibility, providing meals, and counting and claiming meals. However, even if the charter school enters into such an agreement, the charter school holds the agreement with the CDE and is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the programs are administered according to all statutory and regulatory requirements. Charter school SFA agreements may include various provisions and clearly identify the rules and responsibilities of each party. SFAs are allowed to join in such intergovernmental agreements to foster greater efficiency (see 2 CFR, Section 200.318(e) and Memoranda SP-05-2017, CACFP 03-2017, SFSP 02-2017). The following are two examples of what may be included in an agreement.

  • An SFA provides meals to a charter school. The charter school is responsible for all other aspects of program operations, including certifying household applications for free or reduced-price meals, verifying applications, and counting and claiming meals. The charter school is responsible for maintaining all required paperwork to demonstrate compliance such as, production records, copies of the household applications, meal counts and claims for reimbursement, food labels, and recipes.

  • A charter school has an agreement with another SFA for virtually all aspects of program operations, such as determining and verifying eligibility, providing meals, and counting and claiming meals. In this arrangement, the charter school must have ready access to records that demonstrate program compliance.

What administrative duties are associated with participating in the SNP?

A comprehensive list and description of administrative requirements can be found at 7 CFR, parts 210, 220, 245, and 250. Administrative duties at the SFA level include the following:

  • Determine student eligibility for free or reduced-price school meals (7 CFR, Section 245.6)

  • Serve school meals that meet the nutrition standards during the meal period (7 CFR, sections 210.10, and 220.8)

  • Count the number of reimbursable meals served by type (free, reduced-price, paid) at the point of service (7 CFR, Section 210.7(c)(2))

  • Maintain a financial management system to account for revenues and expenditures of the nonprofit food service (7 CFR, Section 210.14)

  • Meet federal reporting and recordkeeping requirements (7 CFR, Section 210.15)

  • Maintain proper sanitation and health standards in conformance with all applicable state and local laws and regulations and federal statutory requirements (7 CFR, Section 210.13).

Charter schools can contact the CDE for more information and technical assistance by phone at 800-952-5609. Charter schools can competitively procure consultants or contractors to perform some (or all) aspects of program administration.

If a charter school uses a charter management organization (CMO) also referred to as an education service provider (ESP), to manage and operate the charter school, can the CMO be responsible for the SFA’s administrative responsibilities?

It is FNS’ understanding that CMOs are for-profit or nonprofit organizations that contract with individual schools to deliver management services. When a CMO is contracted to manage any aspect of the charter school’s food service, it is considered a food service management company (FSMC) (7 CFR, Section 210.2). Like all SFAs that contract with a FSMC, the charter school must follow federal procurement requirements in 7 CFR, Section 210.21 and 2 CFR, Section 200.318-.326 to solicit bids/proposals to contract with this entity. The charter school must include in the solicitation and contract specific SFA responsibilities found in 7 CFR, Section 210.16(a), FSMC responsibilities found in 7 CFR, sections 210.16(c) and (d), and USDA Foods requirements in 7 CFR, sections 250.50–.54 (Subpart D). If the SFA uses a cost-reimbursable contract, the contract must include required provisions in 7 CFR, Section 210.21 and the audit provision found in the 2016 FSMC Handbook for SFAs. These requirements can be found at the USDA Updated Guidance: Contracting with Food Service Management web page External link opens in new window or tab..

However, if a CMO does not manage any aspect of the charter school’s meal service, then the charter school/board of directors is permitted to assign its administrative responsibilities to the CMO, which then essentially functions as the SFA. This determination may be based on the recognition that the board, which is comprised of parents or guardians, and other professionals are board of director members in the fiduciary sense, rather than administrators, and thus the school would be better served by allowing the CMO to assume the administrative functions. This means the board could assign to the CMO eligibility, verification, and all other responsibilities for which the SFA is responsible. Such responsibilities may also include competitively procuring the services of an FSMC as specified in the requirements above. Assigning the administrative responsibilities to a CMO does not mean that the charter school abdicates or transfers its responsibility to ensure all program requirements are met; the charter school is still responsible for having all required paperwork on file, such as production records, copies of the household applications, meal counts, claims for reimbursement, food labels and recipes, documentation of all procurement processes for assessing compliance with procurement standards identified above, and oversight of the FSMC.

Does the CMO sign the CNP agreement with the state agency?

The charter school board of directors is responsible for ensuring all program requirements are met and signs the agreement with the state administering agency.

If the CMO administers charter schools in multiple states, can the CMO conduct eligibility, verification and other functions at a location outside the jurisdiction where the charter is held?

Yes, as long as doing so does not cause an inconvenience or act as an impediment to families applying for benefits, or cause required records to be unavailable for review at any time by a state.

What is a charter school collaborative (CSC)? Does a CSC meet the definition of SFA for the purpose of participating in SNP?

A CSC is a legal entity separate from the contracting charter schools that may be authorized to provide a function, service, or facility for contracting charter schools. Questions about an entity’s eligibility to participate in the SNP should be directed to the appropriate state agency.

Ultimately, the CDE is responsible for determining if an entity meets the criteria for participation in the SNP. In determining the eligibility of a CSC to be an SFA, the state agency must determine if state law permits a CSC to act as an SFA consistent with provisions of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (Title 42, United States Code, Section 1751) and the definition for an SFA (7 CFR, Section 210.2). The state agency is responsible for confirming that the CSC contract (with charter schools in the collaborative) includes a provision enabling the CSC to act as an SFA consistent with the regulatory definition and state law.

 

REQUIREMENTS FOR SCHOOL MEAL PROGRAMS

What are important considerations for charter schools interested in participating in the NSLP and SBP?

Charter schools have cited various challenges in meeting requirements for the school meal programs. There are solutions to these challenges and the CDE is available to provide the training, technical assistance, and resources that charter school need to provide access to nutritious meals through the SNP. Charter schools experiencing these or other challenges can contact the CDE Nutrition Services by phone at 800-952-5609. Challenges that charter schools have communicated include:

  • Access to kitchen facilities or need to retrofit nontraditional facilities to accommodate meal service

  • Contracting for food services with third-party providers, including school districts

  • Adequate staffing available to administer the programs

  • Establishing reliable administrative systems to receive reimbursements, including electronic point-of-sale devices and meal benefit application systems

  • Recruiting and hiring staff with experience in school meal programs
Can a charter school participate in the SNP if it does not have an on-site kitchen?

Yes, a kitchen is not required to participate in the SNP. Schools with minimum facilities can arrange to have meals provided. Schools can partner with another SFA or competitively procure meals from a third-party provider to participate in the SNP.

A school can also contract with an FSMC. When partnering with an FSMC, a school must procure services properly (i.e., competitive procurement) as specified at 7 CFR, sections 210.21, 220.16 and 2 CFR, sections 200.318-326. The CDE can provide further information on the procurement process as well as training and technical assistance to help school food service staff prepare nutritious meals and meet federal requirements. To find out more about the procurement process for the SNP please visit the CDE Procurement in CNPs web page. Other resources include the following FNS procurement information:


Market Basket Analysis when Procuring Program Goods and Modifying Contracted-For Product Lists External link opens in new window or tab.

Compliance with and Enforcement of the Buy American Provision in the NSLP External link opens in new window or tab.

Guidance on Competitive Procurement Standards for Program Operators External link opens in new window or tab.

Questions and Answers on the Transition to and Implementation of 2 CFR, Part 200 External link opens in new window or tab.

What if a charter school wants to provide all students with free school meals? Can they still participate in the SNP?

Yes, schools are not required to charge students for school meals to participate in the SNP. However, schools are limited to the allowable reimbursement rates based on student eligibility for free, reduced-price, or paid school meals.

Additionally, if a school does not charge students for meals, nonfederal funds are required to repay the nonprofit school food service account to cover the cost of meals. Federal reimbursements received for school lunches may not be used to offset the cost of meals served to students who do not meet the eligibility criteria for free and reduced-price meals (7 CFR, Section 210.14(e)(5)(ii). Regulations found at 7 CFR, Section 210.14(e) and Memorandum SP11-2017v2 address the Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) requirements by providing calculation procedures for SFAs to ensure sufficient, allowable funds are provided to the nonprofit school food service account to cover meals served to students ineligible for free or reduced-price meals.

What is direct certification (DC) and what are the requirements for DC in the CNPs?

DC is the process conducted by state agencies and local educational agencies (LEA) to certify eligible children for free meals without the need for household applications. Free meal benefits through DC are established through systems which match student enrollment lists against Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as CalFresh in California) agency records and the records of other assistance agencies whose participants are categorically eligible for free meals, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Head Start Program, and children that are homeless, migrant, runaway, or a foster child.

LEAs are required to directly certify children from households that receive CalFresh benefits, and conduct DC matching activities with CalFresh data at least three times per year: once at or around the start of the school year, and again three and six months after that initial effort. However, LEAs are encouraged to conduct matching activities more frequently to increase the opportunity to identify children in a timely manner.

Benefits of DC include increased program access, reduced burden for families and LEAs, increased reimbursement for LEAs, and improved program integrity. Additionally, the administrative savings through DC allow school districts the opportunity to focus more resources towards improving meal quality and service.

What are the Special Provision Options in the SNP?

In an effort to reduce paperwork and administrative burden, special provision options are available as an alternative for schools with a significant number of low-income students. Information on Special Provisions can be found at the CDE Provisions: Claiming Alternatives web page as well as the CDE Community Eligibility Provision web page.

What is the Community Eligibility Provision?

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is the most recent special provision permitted by law. Schools are eligible to implement CEP if they satisfy the following requirements:

  • Meet a minimum level of 40 percent of identified students certified for free meals in the prior school year without the use of school meal applications (for example, students directly certified through CalFresh)

  • Participate in both the NSLP and SBP

  • Serve free lunches and breakfasts to all students during the 4-year cycle

  • Count total reimbursable breakfasts and total lunches served daily

  • Do not collect school meal applications from households

  • Cover with nonfederal funds any costs of providing free meals to all students above amounts provided by federal reimbursements.

New charter schools that meet the eligibility criteria above are required to elect CEP by June 30 in order to participate in CEP during the following school year. If the number of identified students and enrollment are not available, the new school must wait until the numbers of identified students and total enrollment are available to determine eligibility to elect CEP.

Charter schools should contact their state agency if they are interested in participating in CEP or in learning more about the other special provision options. To learn more about the CEP and other provisions, please visit the USDA School Meals CEP web page External link opens in new window or tab..

What are the reimbursement rates for participating schools?

SFAs are reimbursed for meals based on children’s free, reduced-price, or paid eligibility status. To see the latest NSLP reimbursement rates, please visit the USDA School Meals Rates of Reimbursement web page External link opens in new window or tab.. Certain schools and SFAs are eligible for higher reimbursement rates. These include:

  • Schools serving a higher percentage of low-income children (at least 60 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch) are considered severe need and are eligible for a higher reimbursement rate

  • Schools in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico are eligible for a higher reimbursement rate, due to the higher cost of food in those areas

  • SFAs that are certified to be in compliance with the program meal pattern receive an additional 6 cents for each lunch served.

Can school meal reimbursements go directly to the contractor versus going to the SFA then to the contracting vendor?

No, the CDE reimburses SFAs directly for school meals; the SFA is the responsible entity that holds the agreement with the state agency as explained in 7 CFR, Section 210.7. SFAs submit a monthly reimbursement claim based on the number of free, reduced-price, and paid meals served. After the state agency reviews the claim, reimbursement is issued to the SFA usually within four to six weeks.


TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE AND RESOURCES

Where can a charter school get more information about CNPs and how to meet the unique challenges charter schools may face?

Charter schools considering participation in the CNPs should contact their state agency responsible for administering the CNPs. At the state level, the CNPs are administered by state education or agriculture agencies, which operate the programs through agreements with local school districts. State agency contact information can be found on the USDA School Meals Contacts web page External link opens in new window or tab..

State agencies must conduct trainings and provide technical assistance at least annually on all aspects of operating the SNP. Charter schools are strongly encouraged to participate in the state agency training sessions. Trainings typically address a variety of topics, including the following administrative practices:

  • Application, certification, verification, meal counting, and meal claiming procedures

  • The accuracy of approvals for free and reduced-price meals

  • The identification of reimbursable meals at the point of service

  • Nutrition, health, and food safety standards

  • The efficient and effective use of USDA Foods

  • Any other appropriate topics to ensure program compliance and integrity

What resources are available for charter schools interested in finding out more about the SNP?

 

California School Directory

The School Nutrition Progams Unit (SNPU) analyst will verify that the organization has an active status with the California School Directory. To confirm your school’s status, please visit the CDE School Directory. If you do not currently maintain an active status, this will need to be corrected prior to contacting your assigned SNPU analyst to start the application process.

Charter School Directory

The SNPU analyst will verify that the organization has an active status with the California Charter School Directory. To confirm your school’s status, please visit the CDE Charter School Directory. If you do not currently maintain an active status, this will need to be corrected prior to contacting your assigned SNPU analyst to start the application process.

Required Documents

The following documents will need to be submitted for a complete application packet. You will find more details on documentation requirements below:

  • Copy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter

  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)

  • Dun and Bradstreet DUNS Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

  • Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application Packet

  • Copy of FSMC or vendor contract (if applicable)

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (Form ID CNP-01)

  • Permanent Single Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-01)

  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-02)

  • Donated Food Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-03)

  • Certificate of Compliance—DC with MediCal (Form ID SNP-69)

  • Health Permit for each food service site

  • Menu Certification Packet

Obtain a Vendor Number

In order to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE, you must establish a vendor number. A vendor number allows the agency to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • Copy of the IRS 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter

  • DUNS Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)

  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)

Important: The Payee Data Record (STD. 204) requires an original signature. The Legal Business Name you report on the Payee Data Record (STD. 204) must be identical to the business name on your IRS letter and registered with the California Secretary of State. You may verify your business name on the Secretary of State web site External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition, the mailing address you report on the Payee Data Record (STD.204) must be identical to the address listed on your IRS letter.

Professional Standards Guidelines

The USDA established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the NSLP and SBP. The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all SNP directors, managers, and staff. These standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Review the USDA School Meals Professional Standards External link opens in new window or tab. and the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or email, as they require an original signature.

New Sponsor Acknowledgement

SNP Operators cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process being completed and approved by the CDE. New SNP Operators can claim reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by the CDE.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or email, as they require an original signature.

CNIPS Application

Once the vendor number has been issued, your assigned county analyst will grant administrator access to the CNIPS to the school’s director or authorized official. You must complete the CNIPS Application Packet, which is a series of forms you will complete and submit electronically. Please review the CNIPS Instructions that will be provided to you in an email. Based on the information you provide in the Application Packet, the Checklist section may display a list of additional documents that you must complete or upload. Once you have completed all required sections and uploaded any required documents, you will be able to submit your Application Packet for review.

The CNIPS Online Application Packet will include:

  • Complete Sponsor Application

  • Complete Site Application—one application per physical feeding location

    • A site is the physical location, exact address, where:

      • Program meals are served to students

      • Students consume a complete reimbursable meal

      • The SNP Operator will claim the meals they served to the students

  • SB 80 Certification, if applicable

Meal Vendor or FSMC Contract

If your agency contracts with a private meal vendor or an FSMC, you must complete this section in the CNIPS:

  • If using a meal vendor (private company), complete the following:

    • Vendor Fact Sheet

    • Upload a copy of the vendor contract to the checklist

  • If using an FSMC, complete the following:

    • FSMC Fact Sheet

    • Upload a copy of the FSMC contract and bid package to the checklist

For additional information on contracts and the procurement process, review the CDE Procurement in SNP web page or contact the Procurement Resources Unit by email at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

CNIPS Required Documents

Complete all documents noted below with an original signature from an authorized official employed by the organization. You will be given access to these documents when you are granted access to the CNIPS. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (CNP-01)

  • Permanent Single Agreement (SNP-NSLP-01)

  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (SNP-NSLP-02)

  • Donated Food Agreement (SNP-NSLP-03)

  • Certificate of Compliance—DC with MediCal (SNP-69)

Health Permit

A current and valid health permit must be submitted for each site application. Receipt of a health permit is required whether the food is prepared on site or is received from an outside source. If the school does not currently have a valid health permit, it is recommended that an inspection be scheduled with the local county health department as quickly as possible.

The USDA requires that all schools participating in the NSLP and/or SBP receive two food safety inspections annually. Once the initial food safety inspection is completed, the school would obtain a health permit. The school must contact their local county health department to schedule these inspections.

Menu Certification

Providing students with quality nutritious meals is one of the goals of the NSLP and SBP. All prospective SNP Operators must submit a complete Menu Certification Packet prior to approval. Our Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) will contact you and provide guidance on the required menu certification process.

The following documents will be requested and instructions for submission will be provided when the CNC contacts you:

  • Menus—one full week of each menu offered by grade group for the current month or month prior

  • USDA Menu Worksheets

  • Nutrient Analysis (must be a USDA-approved nutrient analysis software program) or Simplified Nutrient Assessment (part of the USDA Menu Worksheet)

  • Menu Certification Submittal Form (Form ID SNP-28)

  • Site List (Form ID SNP-29)

  • Attestation

The above documents will be submitted on a USB flash drive or CD, with the exception of the Attestation which requires an original signature of the CNIPS Sponsor Official. The above documents must be submitted together to the CNC.

The USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides information regarding the meal pattern, certification, and menu worksheets.

When you are ready, contact the SNPU at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

Private Schools

To begin the application process, please contact your assigned School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) analyst. The SNPU analyst will send a template e-mail detailing the necessary steps to start the application process and how to become a new School Nutrition Programs (SNP) Operator, including any required documents that must be submitted. Please review the below items to ensure you are ready to apply.

Private School Affidavit

The SNPU analyst will verify that the school has an active status with the California Private Schools Office. If you do not currently maintain an active status, this will need to be corrected prior to contacting your assigned SNPU analyst to start the application process.

California School Directory

The SNPU analyst will verify that the organization has an active status with the California School Directory. To confirm your school’s status, please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) School Directory.

Required Documents

The following documents will need to be submitted for a complete application packet. You will find more details on documentation requirements below:

  • Copy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter
  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)
  • Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)
  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)
  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)
  • Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application Packet
  • Copy of food service management company (FSMC) or vendor contract (if applicable)
  • CNIPS User Acceptance (Form ID CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (Form ID SNP-NSLP-03)
  • Health Permit for each food service site
  • Menu Certification Packet

Obtain a Vendor Number

In order to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE, you must establish a vendor number. A vendor number allows the agency to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • Copy of the IRS 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter
  • DUNS Confirmation Request (SNP-31)
  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)

Important: The Payee Data Record (STD. 204) requires an original signature. The Legal Business Name you report on the Payee Data Record (STD. 204) must be identical to the business name on your IRS letter and registered with the California Secretary of State. You may verify your business name on the Secretary of State web site External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition, the mailing address you report on the Payee Data Record (STD.204) must be identical to the address listed on your IRS letter.

Professional Standards Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all SNP directors, managers, and staff. These standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Review the USDA School Meals Professional Standards External link opens in new window or tab. and the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

New Sponsor Acknowledgement

SNP Operators cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process being completed and approved by the CDE. New SNP Operators can claim reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by the CDE.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application

Once the vendor number has been issued, your assigned county analyst will grant administrator access to the CNIPS to the school’s director or authorized official. You must complete the CNIPS Application Packet, which is a series of forms you will complete and submit electronically. Please review the CNIPS Instructions that will be provided to you in an e-mail. Based on the information you provide in the Application Packet, the Checklist section may display a list of additional documents that you must complete or upload. Once you have completed all required sections and uploaded any required documents, you will be able to submit your Application Packet for review.

The CNIPS Online Application Packet will include:

  • Complete Sponsor Application
  • Complete Site Application—one application per physical feeding location
    • A site is the physical location, exact address, where:
      • Program meals are served to students
      • Students consume a complete reimbursable meal
      • The SNP Operator will claim the meals they served to the students
  • SB 80 Certification, if applicable

Meal Vendor or Food Service Management Company Contract

If your agency contracts with a private meal vendor or an FSMC, you must complete this section in the CNIPS:

  • If using a meal vendor (private company), complete the following:
    • Vendor Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the vendor contract to the checklist
  • If using an FSMC, complete the following:
    • FSMC Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the FSMC contract and bid package to the checklist

For additional information on contracts and the procurement process, review the CDE Procurement in SNP web page or contact the Procurement Resources Unit by e-mail at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

CNIPS Required Documents

Complete all documents noted below with an original signature from an Authorized Official employed by the organization. You will be given access to these documents when you are granted access to the CNIPS. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (SNP-NSLP-03)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept these documents if they are submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Health Permit

A current and valid health permit must be submitted for each site application. Receipt of a health permit is required whether the food is prepared on site or is received from an outside source. If the school does not currently have a valid health permit, it is recommended that an inspection be scheduled with the local county health department as quickly as possible.

The USDA requires that all schools participating in the NSLP and/or SBP receive two food safety inspections annually. Once the initial food safety inspection is completed, the school would obtain a health permit. The school must contact their local county health department to schedule these inspections.

Menu Certification

Providing students with quality nutritious meals is one of the goals of the NSLP and SBP. All prospective SNP Operators must submit a complete Menu Certification Packet prior to approval. Our Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) will contact you and provide guidance on the required menu certification process.

The following documents will be requested and instructions for submission will be provided when the CNC contacts you:

  • Menus—one full week of each menu offered by grade group for the current month or month prior
  • USDA Menu Worksheets
  • Nutrient Analysis (must be a USDA-approved nutrient analysis software program) or Simplified Nutrient Assessment (part of the USDA Menu Worksheet)
  • Menu Certification Submittal Form (Form ID SNP-28)
  • Site List (Form ID SNP-29)
  • Attestation

The above documents will be submitted on a USB flash drive or CD, with the exception of the Attestation which requires an original signature of the CNIPS Sponsor Official. The above documents must be submitted together to the CNC.

The USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides information regarding the meal pattern, certification, and menu worksheets.

When you are ready, contact the SNPU at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCI)

To begin the application process, please contact your assigned School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) analyst. The SNPU analyst will send a template e-mail detailing the necessary steps to start the application process and how to become a new School Nutrition Program (SNP) Operator, including any required documents that must be submitted. Please review the below items to ensure you are ready to apply.

Obtain a Vendor Number

In order to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE, you must establish a vendor number. A vendor number allows the agency to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE. You will be asked to submit the following documentation by mail:

  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)
  • Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Confirmation Request (Form ID SNP-31)
  • Copy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter
  • Copy of the Facility License or School Certificate, one per site

Important: The Payee Data Record (STD. 204) requires an original signature. The Legal Business Name you report on the Payee Data Record (STD. 204) must be identical to the business name on your IRS letter and registered with the California Secretary of State. You may verify your business name on the Secretary of State web site External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition, the mailing address you report on the Payee Data Record (STD.204) must be identical to the address listed on your IRS letter.

Professional Standards Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all SNP directors, managers, and staff. These standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Review the USDA School Meals Professional Standards External link opens in new window or tab. and the California Department of Education (CDE) Professional Standards for SNP Personnel to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or email, as they require an original signature.

New Sponsor Acknowledgement

SNP Operators cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process being completed and approved by the CDE. New SNP Operators can claim reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by the CDE.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application

Once the vendor number has been issued, your assigned county analyst will grant administrator access to the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) to the school’s director or authorized official. You must complete the CNIPS Application Packet, which is a series of forms you will complete and submit electronically. Please review the CNIPS Instructions that will be provided to you in an e-mail. Based on the information you provide in the Application Packet, the Checklist section may display a list of additional documents that you must complete or upload. Once you have completed all required sections and uploaded any required documents, you will be able to submit your Application Packet for review.

The CNIPS Online Application Packet will include:

  • Complete Sponsor Application
  • Complete Site Application—one application per physical feeding location
    • A site is the physical location, exact address, where:
      • Program meals are served to students
      • Students consume a complete reimbursable meal
      • The SNP Operator will claim the meals they served to the students
  • SB 80 Certification, if applicable

Meal Vendor or Food Service Management Company Contract

If your agency contracts with a private meal company or a food service management company (FSMC), you must complete this section in the CNIPS:

  • If using a Meal Vendor (private company), complete the following:
    • Vendor Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the vendor contract to the checklist
  • If using an FSMC, complete the following:
    • FSMC Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the FSMC contract and bid package to the checklist

For additional information on contracts and the procurement process, review the CDE Procurement in SNP web page or contact the Procurement Resources Unit by e-mail at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

CNIPS Required Documents

Complete all documents noted below with an original signature from an Authorized Official employed by the organization. You will be given access to these documents when you are granted access to the CNIPS. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (SNP-NSLP-03)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept these documents if they are submitted by fax or email, as they require an original signature.

Menu Certification

Providing students with quality nutritious meals is one of the goals of the NSLP and SBP. All prospective SNP Operators must submit a complete Menu Certification Packet prior to approval. Our Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) will contact you and provide guidance on the required menu certification process.

The following documents will be requested and instructions for submission will be provided when the CNC contacts you:

  • Menus—one full week of each menu offered by grade group for the current month or month prior
  • USDA Menu Worksheets
  • Nutrient Analysis (must be a USDA-approved nutrient analysis software program) or Simplified Nutrient Assessment (part of the USDA Menu Worksheet)
  • Menu Certification Submittal Form (Form ID SNP-28)
  • Site List (Form ID SNP-29)
  • Attestation

The above documents will be submitted on a USB flash drive or CD, with the exception of the Attestation which requires an original signature of the CNIPS Sponsor Official. The above documents must be submitted together to the CNC.

The USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides information regarding the meal pattern, certification, and menu worksheets.

When you are ready, contact the SNPU at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

Nonpublic School, Educational Camp, or Recreational Camp

To begin the application process, please contact your assigned School Nutrition Programs Unit (SNPU) analyst. The SNPU analyst will send a template e-mail detailing the necessary steps to start the application process and how to become a new School Nutrition Program (SNP) Operator, including any required documents that must be submitted. Please review the below items to ensure you are ready to apply.

Obtain a Vendor Number

In order to conduct business and submit claims to the California Department of Education (CDE), you must establish a vendor number. A vendor number allows the agency to conduct business and submit claims to the CDE. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • Payee Data Record (STD. 204)
  • Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) Confirmation Request (SNP-31)
  • Copy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 501(c)(3) Tax Exempt Letter
  • Copy of the Facility License or School Certificate, one per site

Important: The Payee Data Record (STD. 204) requires an original signature. The Legal Business Name you report on the Payee Data Record (STD. 204) must be identical to the business name on your IRS letter and registered with the California Secretary of State. You may verify your business name on the Secretary of State web page External link opens in new window or tab.. In addition, the mailing address you report on the Payee Data Record (STD.204) must be identical to the address listed on your IRS letter.

Professional Standards Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established minimum professional standards requirements for school nutrition professionals who manage and operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The standards aim to institute minimum education standards for school nutrition directors as well as annual training standards for all School Nutrition Program (SNP) directors, managers, and staff. These standards will ensure school nutrition personnel have the knowledge, training, and tools they need to plan, prepare, and purchase healthy products to create nutritious, safe, and enjoyable school meals.

Review the USDA School Meals Professional Standards External link opens in new window or tab. and the CDE Professional Standards for SNP Personnel to determine if your district/agency is able to meet the professional standards requirements.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • Professional Standards Certification Form (Form ID SNP-62)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

New Sponsor Acknowledgement

SNP Operators cannot receive reimbursement for meals or milk during or prior to the application process being completed and approved by the CDE. New SNP Operators can claim reimbursement beginning on the approval date, which is determined by the CDE.

You will be asked to submit the following document by mail:

  • New Sponsor Acknowledgement Form (Form ID SNP-64)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept this document if it is submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Application

Once the vendor number has been issued, your assigned county analyst will grant administrator access to the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) to the school’s director or authorized official. You must complete the CNIPS Application Packet, which is a series of forms you will complete and submit electronically. Please review the CNIPS Instructions that will be provided to you in an e-mail. Based on the information you provide in the Application Packet, the Checklist section may display a list of additional documents that you must complete or upload. Once you have completed all required sections and uploaded any required documents, you will be able to submit your Application Packet for review.

The CNIPS Online Application Packet will include:

  • Complete Sponsor Application
  • Complete Site Application—one application per physical feeding location
    • A site is the physical location, exact address, where:
      • Program meals are served to students
      • Students consume a complete reimbursable meal
      • The SNP Operator will claim the meals they served to the students
  • SB 80 Certification, if applicable

Meal Vendor or Food Service Management Company Contract

If your agency contracts with a private meal company or a food service management company (FSMC), you must complete this section in the CNIPS:

  • If using a Meal Vendor (private company), complete the following:
    • Vendor Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the vendor contract to the checklist
  • If using an FSMC, complete the following:
    • FSMC Fact Sheet
    • Upload a copy of the FSMC contract and bid package to the checklist

For additional information on contracts and the procurement process, review the CDE Procurement in SNP web page or contact the Procurement Resources Unit by e-mail at SFSContracts@cde.ca.gov.

Required Documentation

Complete all documents noted below with an original signature from an Authorized Official employed by the organization. You will be given access to these documents when you are granted access to the CNIPS. You will be asked to submit the following documents by mail:

  • CNIPS User Acceptance (CNP-01)
  • Permanent Single Agreement (SNP-NSLP-01)
  • Free and Reduced-price Policy Statement (SNP-NSLP-02)
  • Donated Food Agreement (SNP-NSLP-03)

Important: Please remember that the CDE will not accept these documents if they are submitted by fax or e-mail, as they require an original signature.

Health Permit

A current and valid health permit must be submitted for each site application that does not have a current facility license or school certificate. Receipt of a health permit for sites that do not have a current facility license or school certificate is required whether the food is prepared on site or is received from an outside source. If the school does not currently have a facility license or school certificate, it is recommended that an inspection for a health permit be scheduled with the local county health department as quickly as possible.

The USDA requires that all schools participating in the NSLP and/or SBP receive two food safety inspections annually. Once the initial food safety inspection is completed, the school would obtain a health permit. The school must contact their local county health department to schedule these inspections.

Menu Certification

Providing students with quality nutritious meals is one of the goals of the NSLP and SBP. All prospective SNP Operators must submit a complete Menu Certification Packet prior to approval. Our Child Nutrition Consultant (CNC) will contact you and provide guidance on the required menu certification process.

The following documents will be requested and instructions for submission will be provided when the CNC contacts you:

  • Menus—one full week of each menu offered by grade group for the current month or month prior
  • USDA Menu Worksheets
  • Nutrient Analysis (must be a USDA-approved nutrient analysis software program) or Simplified Nutrient Assessment (part of the USDA Menu Worksheet)
  • Menu Certification Submittal Form (Form ID SNP-28)
  • Site List (Form ID SNP-29)
  • Attestation

The above documents will be submitted on a USB flash drive or CD, with the exception of the Attestation which requires an original signature of the CNIPS Sponsor Official. The above documents must be submitted together to the CNC.

The USDA School Meals web page External link opens in new window or tab. provides information regarding the meal pattern, certification, and menu worksheets.

When you are ready, contact the SNPU at 800-952-5609, Option 2, to begin the application process.

Questions:   School Nutrition Programs Unit | snpquestions@cde.ca.gov | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Thursday, May 30, 2019
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