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Effective Date of F/RP Meal Eligibility


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Service Directors

Number: SNP-08-2014

Date: August 2014

Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Policy Memorandum SP 11-2014, CACFP 06-2014, and SFSP 11-2014: Effective Date of Free or Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility Determinations; the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act, Section 9(b)(9)(B) (Title 42, U.S. Code 1758[b][9][A]); and USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals, Section 3C 

Subject: Effective Date of Free or Reduced-price Meal Eligibility Determinations


This Management Bulletin (MB) provides school nutrition program (SNP) sponsors with information regarding the flexibility available to local educational agencies (LEA) for establishing the effective date of household eligibility when processing income eligibility applications for children participating in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Special Milk Program.

While the specific point in time for the effective date of a child’s meal eligibility is not addressed in program regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals states that determination, notification, and implementation of free or reduced‑price meal status must be made within 10 operating days from the date the application is received by the LEA. Additionally, Section 9(b)(9)(B) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (Title 42, U.S. Code 1758[b][9][A]) states that a child in a household meeting the income limits “at the time the application is submitted. . .shall be served a free lunch.” Therefore, if an LEA chooses, it could establish the date that a household submits an application as the effective date of a student’s eligibility, rather than the date the official approves the household’s application. This flexibility only applies to:

  • School meal eligibility determinations made through the application process

  • Complete applications containing all required information at the time of submission or that are only awaiting documentation of other source categorical eligibility (e.g., for homeless or migrant children)

LEAs exercising this flexibility must:

  • Notify the California Department of Education (CDE) that they are using this option, with SNP Form 46 (available in the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System [CNIPS] Download Forms section)

  • Use this option consistently for all students in all participating schools and programs

  • Have a method to document the date the application was submitted, such as a date stamp

  • Refund any money paid by or on behalf of a child for a reimbursable meal or milk prior to the eligibility determination; this includes adjusting accrued debt toward meal payments

  • Submit current monthly reimbursement claims and adjust claims after initial submission to reflect changes in meal eligibility

  • Notify their SNP specialist in writing before canceling this option

For more information, please refer to USDA Policy Memo SP 11-2014: Effective Date of Free or Reduced-price Meal Eligibility Determinations on the USDA School Meals Policy Web page at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/policy.

For claim adjustment-related errors or issues, LEAs should contact the appropriate CDE Nutrition Fiscal Analyst. The Nutrition Fiscal Analyst Directory can be viewed on the CDE Nutrition Services Allocations and Apportionments Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/nt/.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact your SNP specialist. The SNP specialist list is available in the CNIPS Download Forms section, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact an SNP Office Technician by phone at 916‑322-3005, 916-322-1450, or 800-952-5609.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, April 9, 2021
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