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Provision of Meals to Needy Pupils

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

To: All Public School Districts, County Superintendents of Schools, All SELPA Administrators, All Nonpublic Schools

Number: 97-100

Attention: Food Service Directors

Date: March 1997

From: School Nutrition Programs

Subject: Provision of Meals to Needy Pupils in Certified Nonpublic Schools

Reference: California Education Code Section 49550

This is to reiterate that certified nonpublic schools, as defined in California Education Code (EC) Section 56034, are required to provide a nutritious meal to needy children attending their schools. EC Section 49550 requires each school district and county superintendent of schools maintaining any kindergarten through grade 12 to ". . . provide for each needy pupil enrolled therein, one nutritionally adequate free or reduced-price meal during each school day . . . . " This is known as the State Meal Mandate. Needy children in certified nonpublic schools are often overlooked with respect to the State Meal Mandate.

Since the children attending the certified nonpublic schools remain under the jurisdiction of county offices of education (COE), or school districts, per EC Section 56365, the State Meal Mandate does apply and requires that nutritious meals be provided to the needy students. When entering into contracts with certified nonpublic schools, the districts and/or the COE must ensure that the contract contains provisions to satisfy the State Meal Mandate. The following information describes alternative methods for certified nonpublic schools to provide meals to their needy students.

Certified nonpublic schools may prepare meals on site or purchase meals from private vendors. If the school is nonprofit, nonpublic schools may enter into a food service agreement with a sponsor of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to provide meals. Since nonprofit, nonpublic schools are eligible to participate in the NSLP, they may be reimbursed for the meals they serve to eligible students. Certified nonpublic schools participating in the NSLP as sponsors will be subject to the terms of the agreements entered into with the California Department of Education, Nutrition Services Distribution Division, and will be reimbursed for meals according to those agreements.

Proprietary nonpublic schools (PNS) are not eligible to participate in the NSLP because of their for-profit status. They may prepare meals on site or purchase meals from private vendors, but may not receive state or federal reimbursement for meals served to their students. The costs for providing meals to the students should be part of the negotiations between the certified PNS and the districts or COE sending children to the school.

As an alternative, the certified PNS may ask a nearby sponsor of the NSLP to provide meals through a food service agreement with the districts sending children to the PNS. The NSLP sponsor providing the meals may claim reimbursement for meals served to students at a certified PNS; therefore, charges to the school district or COE for providing meals to their students will be minimized or possibly eliminated.

When food service agreements of this type are in effect, determination of eligibility for free and reduced-price meals and technical aspects of meal counting and collection procedures for reimbursement will be the responsibility of the NSLP sponsor in cooperation with the PNS administration. One food service agreement will be required between the sponsor providing the meals and the districts sending children to the certified PNS. Each district sending children to the certified PNS will satisfy the State Meal Mandate under this type of arrangement. NSLP sponsors are not obligated to enter into this type of arrangement, although they usually cooperate with proprietary nonpublic schools to decrease costs and ensure compliance with the mandate to make meals available to all needy students.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your School Nutrition Programs (SNP) County Specialist. The SNP County Specialist list is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact the SNP Office Technician (OT), by phone at 916-322-3005 to be directed to your SNP County Specialist.

Questions:   School Nutrition Programs Unit | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Wednesday, April 3, 2024
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