Guidance on Sharing of School Meal Applications
Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information
To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors
Attention: Food Service Directors, School Eligibility Officials, Superintendents, Chief Business Officials
Date: July 2015
Reference: Assembly Bill 1599, Chapter 327, Statutes of 2014; California Education Code Section 49558; U.S. Department of Agriculture Eligibility Manual for School Meals
Subject: Updated Guidance on Sharing of School Meal Applications and the Passing of Assembly Bill 1599
This Management Bulletin (MB) serves two purposes:
- To provide an overview of the amended California Education Code (EC) Section 49558, after the passing of Assembly Bill 1599 (Chapter 327, Statutes of 2014).
- To clarify the extent to which a school district, charter school, or county office of education (collectively known as local educational agencies [LEA]) can share a student’s free or reduced-price (F/RP) eligibility for the purposes of operating a school meal program.
This MB supersedes MB 98-101, issued in February 1998, and MB NSD-SNP-12-2010, issued in April 2010.
Overview of Education Code Section 49558
California EC Section 49558 governs the disclosure of F/RP meal applications and eligibility information. Due to the restrictive nature of EC 49558, the confidentiality and disclosure guidelines mentioned in Part 8 of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals are not applicable in California.
On September 15, 2014, Governor Brown signed AB 1599. This bill, which took effect January 1, 2015, added subdivision (e) to EC Section 49558 and allowed LEAs to release the name and eligibility status of a pupil participating in the F/RP meal program to school district employees who are authorized by the governing body for local control funding formula (LCFF) purposes. EC Section 49558 now reads as follows:
- All applications and records concerning any individual made or kept by any public officer or agency in connection with the administration of any provision of this code relating to free and reduced-price meal eligibility shall be confidential, and may not be open to examination for any purpose not directly connected with the administration of any free or reduced-price meal program, or any investigation, prosecution, or criminal or civil proceeding conducted in connection with the administration of any free or reduced-price meal program.
- Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a public officer or agency may allow school district employees, who are authorized by the governing board of the school district, to disclose from the individual meal records only the pupil’s name and school meal eligibility status, solely for purposes of disaggregation of academic achievement data or to identify pupils eligible for public school choice and supplemental educational services pursuant to the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) (20 U.S.C. Sec. 6301), if the public agency ensures the following:
- The public agency has adopted a policy that allows for the use of individual records for these purposes.
- No individual indicators of participation in any free or reduced-price meal program are maintained in the permanent record of any pupil, unless otherwise allowed by law.
- No public release of information regarding individual pupil participation in any free or reduced-price meal program is permitted.
- All other confidentiality provisions required by law are met.
- The information collected regarding individual pupils certified to participate in the free or reduced-price meal program is destroyed when it is no longer needed for its intended purpose.
- Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the school districts and county superintendents of the schools may release information on the School Lunch Program application to the local agency that determines eligibility under the Medi-Cal program if the child is approved for free meals and if the applicant consents to the sharing of information pursuant to Section 49557.2.
- Notwithstanding subdivision (a), the school districts and county superintendents of schools may release information on the School Lunch Program application to the local agency that determines eligibility under the CalFresh program or to an agency that determines eligibility for nutrition assistance programs authorized by Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 210.1) of Subtitle B of Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations, if the child is approved for free or reduced-price meals and if the applicant consents to the sharing of information pursuant to Section 49557.3. [Please note that this change was made in 2011 due to the passing of AB 402.]
- Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a school district, charter, or county office of education may release the name and eligibility status of a pupil participating in the free or reduced-price meal program as follows:
- To the Superintendent for the purposes of determining funding allocations under the local control funding formula and for assessing the accountability of that funding.
- Upon request, to another school district, charter school, or county office of education that is serving a pupil living in the same household as an enrolled pupil for purposes related to free and reduced-price meal program eligibility and for data used in local control funding formula calculations.
- Information released pursuant to subdivision (c), (d), or (e) shall adhere to all of the following requirements:
- Individual indicators of participation in a free or reduced-price meal program shall not be maintained in the permanent record of any pupil, unless otherwise authorized by law.
- The public release of information regarding individual pupil participation in a free or reduced-price meal program is not permitted.
- All other confidentiality requirements imposed by law or regulation are met.
EC Section 49558 does not prohibit districts from sharing meal eligibility information to ensure that individual students continue to receive school meals when moving from one school district to another, either at the beginning of or during the school year. Both districts must ensure that the information remains confidential.
Frequently Asked Questions
The NSD has received many questions regarding the sharing of school meal applications. Below is a list of the most commonly asked questions:
Can a class teacher put a list of names of those students on the board who have not turned in their meal application and are not on the direct certification (DC) list, to remind them to submit the meal application?
The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act requires that households complete a F/RP Meal Application if they choose to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). However, households that choose not to apply for the NSLP cannot be required to submit an application for F/RP benefits.
Does EC Section 49558 allow districts to provide a list of students who have not turned in their meal application and are not on the DC list to the school district or superintendent to remind the students to submit a meal application?
No. EC Section 49558 does not allow a school district, charter school, or county office of education (COE) to release a list of students who have not submitted their meal applications to the district superintendent for the purpose of reminding students to submit meal applications. The submission of meal applications is not mandatory. Such sharing may overtly identify those who qualify for and participate in the NSLP.
EC Section 49558 allows only for sharing the list with the district superintendent for the purposes of determining funding allocations under the local control funding formula (LCFF) and for assessing the accountability of that funding.
Can an LEA share its F/RP meal data with another LEA for LCFF purposes?
Yes. AB 1599 allowed LEAs to obtain F/RP meal data for LCFF purposes from other LEAs as students transfer from one LEA to another. As of January 1, 2015, EC Section 49558 allows LEAs to disclose F/RP meal eligibility data with other LEAs for NSLP/meal certification purposes and for LCFF data collections and calculations.
Can an LEA identify and share individual F/RP meal data with providers of supplemental educational services for students who qualify as low income and low performing in Program Improvement Schools?
Yes, under certain circumstances. For Program Improvement Schools, EC Section 49558 allows school district employees, who are authorized by the governing board of the school district, to disclose only the pupil’s name and school meal eligibility status from the individual meal records, solely for purposes of disaggregation of academic achievement data or to identify pupils eligible for public school choice and supplemental educational services pursuant to the ESEA. However, there must be an approved board policy in place that names the parties or positions who are allowed to disclose and receive the F/RP meal information prior to any such transactions.
COEs often run special day classes at and provide meals to students in a school district, while the district collects F/RP meal data, provides meals, and collects reimbursements for those meals. The COEs report enrollment for those students in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) and need to obtain the F/RP meal data from the collecting district. Can the district release that information to the COE?
Yes. The legal intent in AB 1599 and EC Section 49558 applies to both public school districts and COEs. Information sharing is allowed between LEAs as students transfer for NSLP/meal certification purposes and LCFF data collection only. All other confidentiality provisions still remain in effect and information may not be open to examination for any purpose not directly related to the administration of any F/RP meal program.
Can an LEA provide the actual reporting form (F/RP meal application or alternative household income verification form) to auditors for LCFF review purposes?
Yes. The California Department of Education (CDE) Legal Division has advised that LEAs and their food service departments may allow auditors access to individual F/RP meal applications for review, either for NSLP audits or LCFF audits. However, all related documentation and information provided by LEA staff (including any food service staff) to auditors must be kept in strict confidence, adhering to all state and federal privacy laws, and must be used solely for the purpose of determining whether a student is correctly designated as eligible for F/RP meals. Districts have the authority to keep all records on site and not allow auditors to remove the original or copies of a child’s F/RP meal application.
Alternative Household Income Verification/LCFF forms: Please contact LCFF staff at the CDE Office of Principal Apportionment and Special Education by e-mail at PASE@cde.ca.gov for all questions related to LCFF funding.
Additional Resource Information for Sharing Meal Applications
For detailed information on sharing of meal applications for Medi-Cal, please refer to MB SNP-18-2014 located on the CDE Amendment to Sharing of Meal Applications Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/mbsnp182014.asp.
For more information on sharing of meal applications with local CalFresh offices, please refer to MB SNP-31-2015 located on the CDE Sharing School Meal Applications with CalFresh Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/mbsnp312015.asp.
If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact your county’s SNP Specialist. A list of SNP Specialists is available in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System, Form ID Caseload. You can also contact Jeremy Partsch, SNP Unit OT, by phone at 916-322-3005 by e-mail at email@example.com.