Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs
The Early Childhood Development Act of 2020 (Senate Bill (SB) 98, Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) authorized the transfer of child care and development programs administered by the California Department of Education to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) effective July 1, 2021. The content on this page may not be current and involves the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that has moved to CDSS. Visit the CDSS CACFP web page or call 1-833-559-2420 for more information.
Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: Child Nutrition Program Sponsors
Attention: Food Service and Program Directors
Date: August 2015
Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture Policy Memorandum SP 10‑2015, CACFP 04-2015, and SFSP 03-2015: Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs
Supersedes: California Department of Education Management Bulletins CNP-02-2014 and CNP-09-2014
Subject: Area Eligibility in Child Nutrition Programs
This Management Bulletin (MB) updates and consolidates guidance on the determination of area eligibility in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and Seamless Summer Feeding Option (SSFO) of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This MB also includes guidance on the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) related to area eligibility determinations. This MB supersedes MB CNP-02-2014, issued in March 2014, as well as MB CNP-09-2014, issued in June 2014, regarding the use of school and census data and data release information.
Sponsors may use either census data or school data to determine if a site is area eligible. The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) allows the use of school data to establish area eligibility in the CACFP (Title 42, U.S. Code [42 U.S.C.] 1766[f][A][ii][I][bb]) and SFSP (42 U.S.C. 1761[a][A][i][I]). The NSLA also allows the use of census data to establish Tier I eligibility for CACFP day care homes (42 U.S.C. 1766[f][A][ii][I][aa]) and area eligibility for SFSP sites (42 U.S.C. 1761[a][A][i][II]).
Duration of and Re-establishment of Area Eligibility
Area eligibility determinations made using either school or census data are valid for a period of five years, regardless of any transition from one child nutrition program to another.
Sponsors participating in the At-risk Afterschool Meals component of the CACFP must use school data to determine area eligibility; therefore, SFSP sites that have been deemed eligible based on census data must re-establish area eligibility based on school data before being approved to serve CACFP at-risk afterschool meals.
Use and Availability of School Data
Sponsors may use school data to establish area eligibility for the CACFP, SFSP, and SSFO, excluding camps, which must continue to document income eligibility. The school must indicate that the proposed meal location is within a school’s attendance area where at least 50 percent of enrolled children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.
The California Department of Education (CDE) maintains a list of schools in the state—including elementary, middle, and high schools—where at least 50 percent of enrolled children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. The CDE provides this information each year by February 15 on the CDE Student Poverty FRPM Data web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sd/sd/filessp.asp. The information is based on data from a designated month, most commonly the month of October (Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations [7 CFR], sections 226.6[f][viii][A] and 226.6[f][ix][A]). For assistance obtaining school data, please contact your School Nutrition Programs (SNP), CACFP, or SFSP Specialist.
In situations where data from a more recent month of the school year is available and establishes area eligibility for an otherwise ineligible location, school data from that month may be used to establish area eligibility.
Community Eligibility Provision
The NSLA (42 U.S.C. 1759a[a]) was amended by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 to provide an alternative to household applications for free and reduced-price meals to all students in schools and local educational agencies with a high percentage of enrolled children who are eligible for free meals. This alternative is known as the CEP.
Qualifying schools serve free lunch and breakfast through the NSLP and School Breakfast Program. School districts electing to use the CEP must continue to provide the CDE with a list of schools under its jurisdiction in which 50 percent or more of enrolled children have been determined eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Area eligibility determinations based on data from schools electing to use the CEP as a school district or as a part of a group of schools must still use the individual school data rather than districtwide data for SFSP sites, SSFO sites, CACFP at-risk afterschool sites, CACFP day care home tiering, and NSLP snacks. Individual school data is obtained by multiplying the most current school-level identified student percentage by a factor of 1.6. If the result is equal to or greater than 50 percent, meal sites located in the attendance area of the school are area eligible. If a school electing to use CEP collects alternate household income information to be used for other purposes, school data based on these applications may not be used to determine area eligibility.
More information on the CEP can be found on the CDE CEP web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/cep.asp.
Use and Availability of Census Data
Sponsors may establish area eligibility for CACFP day care homes, SFSP sites, and SSFO sites by using the most recent census data obtained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) from the Census Bureau. The FNS will annually announce the release of the new Census Bureau data in October. You can subscribe to receive USDA FNS announcements on the USDA FNS Email Updates web page at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USFNS/subscriber/new?pop=t.
Data Prioritization for Day Care Home Sponsors
Due to census data now being annually estimated and released, CACFP day care home sponsors are no longer required to prioritize school data to establish area eligibility prior to using census data (7 CFR, Section 226.15[f]). The amendment of this policy allows CACFP day care home sponsors to use either school or census data for applicable area eligibility determinations.
Flexibilities Using Census Data
When using census data, SFSP sites, SSFO sites, and CACFP day care homes may now determine area eligibility using either census block groups (CBG) or census tracts. Census tracts are geographical units that consist of one or more CBGs. Additionally, up to three adjacent CBGs may be averaged to determine eligibility using a weighted average. At least 40 percent of children must be eligible for free and reduced-price meals in each of the CBGs being averaged. Census tracts may not be combined.
In short, SFSP sites, SSFO sites, and CACFP day care homes that use census tract data are considered area eligible under any of the following scenarios:
- If 50 percent or more of the children in a census tract are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals
- If 50 percent or more of the children in a CBG are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals
- If the percentage of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals in up to three adjacent CBGs, when averaged, is 50 percent or more; provided that at least 40 percent of children in each of the combined CBGs are eligible for free and reduced-price meals
These new flexibilities may help previously ineligible sites located immediately adjacent to an eligible area to also become area eligible.
Census Data Eligibility Maps and Instructions
Census tract and CBG data are now available through the FNS Mapper on the USDA FNS Area Eligibility web page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/areaeligibility.
This mapper allows sponsors to combine up to three CBGs to determine site eligibility according to the new policy. The USDA FNS created an Area Eligibility mapper demonstration video that can be viewed on the YouTube SFSP Summer Mapping Demo web page at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbPDT_7xpSo.
The USDA also provides the current census tract data to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). This data can also be used to determine eligibility and is available on the FRAC FairData CACFP Expansion Maps web page at http://www.fairdata2000.com/CACFP and the FRAC FairData SFSP Expansion Maps web page at http://www.fairdata2000.com/SummerFood.
The USDA provides written instructions for determining area eligibility using both mappers. You can download a Portable Document Format file with the instructions from the USDA FNS web page at
http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/Census%20Instructions%202014_0.pdf. [Note: the preceding web address is no longer valid.]
Use of Other Approved Data Sources in the Summer Meal Programs
Area eligibility may be established for SFSP and SSFO sites when using documentation from other approved sources that demonstrates 50 percent or more of the children in the defined area are eligible for free or reduced-price meals (7 CFR, Section 225.2). These approved alternative sources are also considered valid for five years. Approved alternative data sources may include the Department of Welfare, Zoning Commissions, USDA Rural Development housing authorities, Housing and Urban Development authorities, or local housing authorities.
The alternative data source’s income eligibility requirements must be equivalent to or more restrictive than the SFSP requirements. The CDE will verify information provided directly with the alternative data source that maintains the data.
Summer Meal Sites Serving Children of Migrant Workers
SFSP and SSFO sites that predominantly serve children of migrant workers may establish area eligibility as a migrant site. In order to confirm migrant eligibility, sponsors must submit information obtained from a migrant organization that certifies the site serves children of migrant workers. Migrant sites are required to submit qualifying documentation annually. Migrant sites may operate like open or open-restricted sites, as defined in 7 CFR, Section 225.2, and may receive reimbursement for up to three meals per day served to all children in attendance.
Summer Meal Sites Serving American Indian Children
SFSP and SSFO sites that are located on a tribal reservation or trust land where 50 percent or more of the children in the defined area are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals may establish area eligibility with documentation from a tribal authority. This policy supports increased summer meal access for American Indian children and reduces the paperwork burden for sponsors and families.
If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your agency’s SNP, CACFP, or SFSP Specialist using the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS) and/or the information below:
SNP: If you have any questions about this MB, please contact your assigned SNP Specialist. The SNP Specialist list is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact the SNP Office Technicians by phone at 916-322-1450, 916-322-3005, or 800-952-5609, Option 2, to be directed to your SNP Specialist.
CACFP: The CACFP Specialist Contact List is located in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID CACFP 01. You can also contact the Community Nutrition Progams Unit Office Technician, by phone at 916-327-2991 or by email at CACFP@cde.ca.gov, to be directed to your CACFP Specialist.
SFSP: The SFSP Specialist Contact List is located in the CNIPS Download Forms section. You can also contact the Summer Meals Unit by phone at 800-952-5609, Option 7, or by email at email@example.com, to be directed to your SFSP Specialist.