Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

Establishing Eligibility for Free Meals


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

To: All Child Nutrition Program Sponsors, County Superintendents of Schools, Diocesan Superintendents of Schools

Number: 00-110,  00-210,  00-708

Attention: Food Service Directors

Date: October 2000

Subject: Establishing Eligibility for Free Meals

Reference: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) All Points Bulletin (APB): CNP-00-10

This Management Bulletin provides clarification regarding the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and CalFresh (previously known as Food Stamps) case numbers to establish eligibility for free meals in all child nutrition programs.

Definition of Terms:
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
    This federal program, which replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), provides monetary assistance to families in need. A TANF case number is assigned to families or individuals eligible to receive benefits.
  • California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs).
    This is the title California uses for the federal TANF program. The terms TANF and CalWORKs refer to the same basic program and are used interchangeably in child nutrition documents. A CalWORKs case number is assigned to families or individuals eligible to receive benefits.
  • CalFresh case number.
    This is a number assigned to a family or individual currently eligible for CalFresh benefits. Check with your local welfare office for the CalFresh case number format used in your area.
  • Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card.
    A contracted manufacturer provides this card to a CalFresh recipient. The EBT card works much like a retail debit card in that a certain level of benefits are assigned to it. As the CalFresh recipient uses the benefits, the balance diminishes. Depending on the recipient, additional benefits may or may not be renewed each month.

All Points Bulletin (ABP) CNP-00-10 states that CalWORKs/TANF or CalFresh case numbers may be used to establish a child's eligibility for free meals in child nutrition programs. The State of California, through the CalWORKs program, determines the nature and extent of benefits under the TANF program. If a child receives CalWORKs benefits or resides in a household that receives CalFresh benefits, the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service considers the child categorically eligible for free meals. Placement of the proper CalFresh or CalWORKs case number on the free and reduced price meal application allows an automatic determination of eligibility for free meal benefits. You should check with your local welfare office to determine the appropriate CalFresh and CalWORKs case number formats. Any number provided on the application for free and reduced price meals that does not meet this designated format for your area should be questioned.

The EBT card is not considered as proof of eligibility for food stamp benefits. The EBT card does not reflect the current food stamp eligibility status of the recipient. Also, the person who has possession of the EBT card may be acting on behalf of the CalFresh recipient and may not be eligible for CalFresh benefits themselves.

Questions:   School Nutrition Programs Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Monday, January 27, 2020
Related Content
Recently Posted in Nutrition
  • CACFP Training Worksheets and Crediting Handbook (added 07-Aug-2020)
    The CDE NSD is pleased to announce that USDA TN has released several new CACFP resources, including interactive worksheets (in both English and Spanish) and the new Crediting Handbook for the CACFP.
  • Food Buying Guide Calculator (added 06-Aug-2020)
    Provides the steps for using the Food Buying Guide (FBG) Calculator to determine required quantities of foods to purchase to meet the Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) meal pattern requirements.
  • Navigating the Food Buying Guide Calculator (added 06-Aug-2020)
    Child Nutrition Program (CNP) Operators will learn how to use the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Buying Guide (FBG) Calculator to determine required quantities of foods to purchase to meet the CNP meal pattern requirements.
  • Produce Safety Four-Part Webinar Series (added 05-Aug-2020)
    The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Office of Food Safety (OFS) and its’ training partners have developed a four-part webinar series addressing the most popular topics presented at Produce Safety University.
  • MB: Processor Inventory Reconciliation 2019–20 (added 31-Jul-2020)
    In response to COVID-19 and the unforeseen changes in food usage and inventory, the CDE, FDP, is amending its annual Processor Inventory Reconciliation process for School Year 2019–20 carryover year.

  • CACFP Program Year 2020-21 Open July 31, 2020 (added 31-Jul-2020)
    This posting notifies CACFP centers that Program Year 2020–21 will open on today, July 31st, 2020. Agencies must update and submit their application in the CNIPS prior to August 31, 2020.
  • CACFP Annual Updates 2020–21 (added 31-Jul-2020)
    This posting notifies CACFP agencies that part of the annual update application process includes submitting the CACFP Financial Summary Document.
  • SFSP Meal Pattern Flexibility Waiver Extension 5 (added 31-Jul-2020)
    On July 30, 2020, the USDA extended the effective date of the national waiver to allow meal pattern flexibility for the SFSP through August 31, 2020.
  • Virtual Learning Opportunities for CNPs (added 30-Jul-2020)
    The California Department of Education (CDE) Nutrition Services Division (NSD) is pleased to announce US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition (TN) updates to virtual learning opportunities for Child Nutrition Program (CNP) Operators.
  • July 14, 2020 Tuesday at 2 Webinar (added 30-Jul-2020)
    The CDE NSD hosted the fifth Tuesday @ 2: School Nutrition Town Hall webinar on July 14, 2020. The webinar provided discussion on transitioning back to school and moving forward in meal service amidst COVID-19.