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Sharing School Meal Applications with CalFresh


Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin

Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Attention: Food Service Directors

Number: SNP-31-2015

Date: July 2015

Reference: Assembly Bill 402, Chapter 504, California Statutes of 2011; California Education Code sections 49557.3 and 49558; California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18901.55.
http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120AB402&search_keywords External link opens in new window or tab.  

Supersedes: Management Bulletin SNP-05-2013

Subject: Sharing School Meal Applications with CalFresh Offices


This Management Bulletin (MB) provides additional information regarding the implementation of Assembly Bill 402, which amended California Education Code (EC) Section 49558 and added EC Section 49557.3 and California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 18901.55. Effective January 1, 2012, school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools (collectively known as local educational agencies [LEA]) may voluntarily implement a process to share information from National School Lunch Program (NSLP) free and reduced-price (F/RP) meal applications with local CalFresh (previously known as Food Stamps) offices. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has made funding for specific expenses available to county welfare departments (CWD) that wish to participate in the program.

Overview of Assembly Bill 402

AB 402 is intended to increase the participation of F/RP-eligible student households in the CalFresh program. Many students are eligible for the CalFresh program, but are not currently receiving benefits. AB 402 allows LEAs, under certain conditions, to share F/RP meal application information from eligible student households with local CWDs (or designees) to determine CalFresh eligibility. Among the benefits of AB 402 for both households and LEAs, are more F/RP eligible students receiving CalFresh benefits, thus ensuring that they have meals outside school, and more students being directly certified as eligible for free meal benefits. LEAs may choose to share students’ approved F/RP meal applications, or the information they contain, with local CalFresh offices only if the LEA and the CalFresh office:

  1. Enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that specifies the roles and responsibilities of each agency and describes the method used for sharing information.

  2. Obtain written consent from the parent or guardian approving the information-sharing.
Establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with a County Welfare Department

AB 402 requires LEAs that want to participate in the information-sharing process with CalFresh offices to first establish an MOU between the LEA and the local CalFresh office. A list of county CalFresh offices is available on the California Department of Education (CDE) CalFresh County Contacts for Direct Certification Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/directcertcountycontacts.asp.

Although the educational and welfare agencies may include terms in the MOU unique to their local needs, the MOU must include the following:

  1. The F/RP meal application, or the information it contains, may only be shared by LEAs with the local agency that determines CalFresh eligibility (local or county CalFresh office). The child’s F/RP meal application must first be approved for F/RP meals, and the parent or guardian of the child must consent in writing to the sharing of that information pursuant to EC Section 49557.3(a).

  2. The written consent must contain statements that the parent or guardian is aware of the following:

    1. They are consenting to sharing the NSLP application with the local CalFresh office to determine eligibility for the CalFresh program.

    2. The F/RP meal application and the information it contains is confidential and will not be shared with any other office or for any other purpose beyond enrollment in the CalFresh program.

    3. Participation in the CalFresh program is strictly voluntary.

    4. The CalFresh office will provide the prospective applicant with a CalFresh application to enroll in the CalFresh program.

  3. The information-sharing MOU developed by each LEA and local CalFresh office must be signed by representatives of each agency who have the authority to enter into such an agreement.

  4. The respective roles and responsibilities of the LEA and the local CalFresh office (also known as “parties”), including the processes to be used in sharing the F/RP meal application or information (e.g., if sharing will be conducted physically or electronically), must be clearly set forth.

  5. The MOU must distinguish if the information shared by the LEA will be the F/RP meal application itself or only the information it contains, how much of the information will be disclosed, and whether the MOU will apply only to students approved for free meals or to students approved for reduced-price meals as well. The MOU must also detail how the information will be used by the local CalFresh office.

  6. F/RP household applicants whose information is shared with the local CalFresh office are required to complete a CalFresh application prior to enrollment in the CalFresh program.

  7. The MOU must state that the F/RP meal application and the information it contains is confidential and shall not be used by the local CalFresh office for any purpose not directly related to the enrollment of families in the CalFresh program, and that it will not be shared by the LEA or local CalFresh office with any other government agency, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Services) or the Social Security Administration, unless specifically authorized to do so pursuant to other provisions of law.

  8. The MOU must inform both parties that the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) establishes a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, if any eligibility information is published, divulged, disclosed, or made known in any manner or extent not authorized by federal law. This includes the disclosure of meal eligibility information by one entity authorized under the NSLA (LEA) to receive the information directly from the determining agency (CalFresh office). In addition, the MOU must inform the parties that federal law establishes a fine of not more than $5,000 for any employee who willfully discloses individually identifiable information in any manner to any person or agency not entitled to receive it, or who knowingly and willfully requests or obtains any record concerning an individual from an agency under false pretenses.

In accordance with the terms of the MOU and federal and state law, once the LEA shares the F/RP application information with the CalFresh office, the local CalFresh office may use the information as an initial application for CalFresh.

Parent or Guardian Consent Requirements

Before the F/RP meal applications or any information contained therein can be released to local CalFresh offices, parental or guardian consent must be obtained by the LEA and the consent must meet the requirements below. LEAs can use the Parental or Guardian Consent Form to Release the Household Meal Application to the CalFresh Program, available on the CDE School Nutrition Program Forms Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/fm.asp, or the new streamlined process by using the CDE Prototype Household F/RP Meal Application with an AB 402 parent or guardian consent section, available on the CDE School Nutrition Eligibility Materials Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/nu/sn/eligmaterials.asp.

  1. After an MOU has been established, LEAs have a choice of either:

    1. Using the current process that includes a parental consent form, which a parent or guardian signs. LEAs send a copy of the consent form along with a copy of the approved F/RP meal application to the CWD.

    2. Using the new prototype household F/RP application that includes an AB 402 parent or guardian consent section. This option allows an LEA to send only a copy of the F/RP meal application to the CWD.

  2. The separate consent form was created to address the concerns of district food service directors who are apprehensive about sharing anything more than meal program requirements on a household meal application form with their CWDs. The original F/RP meal application with the separate parental consent form will remain on the CDE Web site for LEAs to use in their AB 402 process. The original consent form is now available in 15 languages.

  3. The new prototype F/RP meal application with an AB 402 parent or guardian consent section eliminates the need for a consent form. LEAs that voluntarily elect to use the new F/RP meal application (with consent and check box included) can share the entire application with the CWDs. Meal program benefits are not affected for households that choose not to select the check box and decline the information sharing process.

  4. LEAs may now use nonprofit school food service (cafeteria fund) account monies to pay for the time it takes to process F/RP meal applications for AB 402 purposes (processing consent forms), such as making copies, purchasing postage, and sending confidential faxes. However, cafeteria funds may not be used for CalFresh or AB 402 outreach.

  5. Confidentiality must be maintained. Parent or guardian consent to share any information must be in writing and must identify the information shared and how it will be used. In this case, the information to be shared is the F/RP meal application, or the information it contains, and it will be used by the local CalFresh office solely to initiate enrollment of the student’s family in the CalFresh program.

  6. The parental consent form or an application with the consent check box marked can only be signed and dated by the student’s parent or guardian who is a member of the household, unlike the standard F/RP meal application, which can be signed by any adult member of the household.

  7. The consent verbiage must inform the parent or guardian that choosing not to sign the consent form and declining to participate in the CalFresh program will not affect their children’s eligibility for F/RP meals.

  8. Parental consent verbiage must notify parents or guardians that the F/RP meal application, or the information it contains, will be shared only with the local CalFresh office and only for purposes of determining eligibility for CalFresh benefits.

  9. CWDs must verify the information on the F/RP meal application or consent form to determine if the household is already receiving CalFresh benefits. If the household is not receiving benefits, the CWD will contact the household to let them know they may be eligible for CalFresh benefits and how to begin the application process.
Distribution of Information to Families

If the student’s family is determined to be eligible for CalFresh benefits, the local CalFresh office shall notify the family of eligibility and enroll the family in the CalFresh program upon receipt of a signed CalFresh application.

LEAs that want to participate in the AB 402 process should notify households of this opportunity as soon as possible. LEAs should include the new meal application and CalFresh information with the F/RP meal application packet at the beginning of the school year. LEAs that do not wish to use the new application but still want to participate in the AB 402 process should include the parental consent form and CalFresh information with the F/RP meal application packet.

A joint letter on the implementation of AB 402 has been distributed by CDSS to local CalFresh offices and by CDE to LEAs. The letter is also available on the CDSS County Letters Web page at http://www.cdss.ca.gov/lettersnotices/PG980.htm [Note, the preceding Web address is no longer valid] and the CDE Year 2015 – Letters Web page http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/el/le/yr15ltr.asp.

Contact Information

If you have any questions regarding this subject, please contact Katie Tully, School Nutrition Programs Specialist, by phone at 916-445-4309 or by e-mail at ktully@cde.ca.gov, or Ras Siddiqui, School Nutrition Programs Specialist, by phone at 916-322-8315 or by e-mail at rsiddiqui@cde.ca.gov.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, September 21, 2018
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