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Eligibility Requirements for Military Families

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy and Beneficial Information

Date: January 2017

Number: CNP-02-2017

To: Child Nutrition Program Operators

Attention: Program Operators

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals; Section 9 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act; USDA Policy Memoranda SP 06-2010, CACFP 03-2010, SFSP 04-2010 Revised (September 2010); SP 30-2006, CACFP 14-2006, SFSP 07-2006 (August 2006); USDA CACFP Policy Memo (January 7, 2005); USDA Implementation Memo CN1 (July 1, 2004)

Supersedes: California Department of Education Management Bulletins USDA-CNP-02-2010 (March 2010); 06-118, 06-222, 06-703 (October 2006); 05-102, 05-202, and 05-700 (February 2005); 03-111, 03-206, and 03-704 (April 2003); 02-108, 02-206, and 02-711 (June 2002)

Subject: Eligibility Requirements for Military Families

This Management Bulletin (MB) consolidates and provides clarification to previous MBs that the California Department of Education (CDE) issued regarding the eligibility determination of free and reduced-price (F/RP) meals or free milk for military families in all child nutrition programs.

Determination of a Military Household Size and Income

Household composition for the purpose of making an eligibility determination is based on an economic unit, which is a group of related or unrelated individuals that share housing, income, and expenses.

Any benefits paid directly to a nondeployed military service member is considered income and must be reported by that household member. Also, members of the armed forces who are activated or deployed in support of any military combat operation are considered a household member. In addition, any income provided to the household by the deployed service member must be included when determining eligibility for F/RP meal or free milk benefits.

Reportable income sources for military service members include: 

  • Military basic pay
  • Cash bonuses
  • Food and clothing allowances
  • Off-base housing allowances
  • Veteran’s benefits

Housing allowances given to military families to offset the cost of private, off-base housing must be included along with all other reportable income sources.

Excluded Income

Military households may exclude the following income sources: 

  • Privatized on-base housing allowances
  • Combat pay
  • Deployment Extension Incentive Pay
  • Family Subsistence Supplemental Allowance
  • Payments from Agent Orange Compensation Exclusion Act

Housing allowances given to military families for on-base, privatized housing must not be counted as reportable income. This includes service members living in housing covered under the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI).

Combat pay is income received in addition to the service member’s basic pay as a result of deployment to or service in an area designated as a combat zone. A combat zone is any area that the President of the United States (U.S.) designates, by executive order, as an area in which the U.S. Armed Forces are engaging or have engaged in combat.

The exclusion of combat pay is extended to Deployment Extension Incentive Pay (DEIP), which is given to active duty service members who agree to extend their military service by completing deployment with their unit without re-enlisting. This exemption applies until the service member returns to their home station. Any DEIP payment provided to a nondeployed service member serving at their home station is considered income.

Child and Adult Care Food Program Considerations

Deployment of a parent or guardian of a child who temporarily resides with a day care home (DCH) provider, may affect the child’s eligibility to receive F/RP meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Although the child may live with the provider while the service member is deployed, the child is not considered part of the provider’s household. In this special situation, the child would continue to participate in the meal service as a nonresidential participant. To claim reimbursement for program meals, the DCH provider must have power of attorney, custody, or an agreement established by the military to provide residential care to the child.


The USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals can be downloaded as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file from the USDA Guidance and Resources Web page at

The USDA policy memos related to this MB can be reviewed on the USDA School Meals Policy Web page at and the USDA CACFP Policy Web page at

For additional information on MHPI, review the USDA Implementation Memo CN 1: Exclusion of the Housing Allowance for Military Households in Privatized Housing on the USDA School Meals Policy Web page at or review the Department of Defense MHPI Web page at [Note: The preceding link is no longer valid.]

Contact Information

If you have questions regarding this subject, please contact your School Nutrition Programs (SNP), CACFP, or Summer Meals Unit (SMU) specialist.

The SNP specialist list is available in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) Download Forms section, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact an SNP Office Technician (OT) by phone at 916-322-3005 or 916-322-1450.

The CACFP specialist list is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID CACFP 01. You can also contact a CACFP OT by phone at 916-327-2991 or 916-324-6153.

The SMU specialist list is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID SMU 01. You can also contact the SMU OT by phone at 916-322-8323.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 10, 2021
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