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Ways to Assist Families During Economic Downturn

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Policy, Beneficial Information

To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors

Number: USDA-SNP-08-2009

Attention: Food Service Director, Business Official

Date: July 2009

Subject: Ways to Assist Families During Economic Downturn

Reference: United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Policy Memo SP-15-2009; United States Department of Agriculture 2008 Eligibility Guidance Manual for School Meals

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides information from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that clarifies the effect of year-long meal program eligibility when changes in income occur during the school year and outlines how local educational agencies (LEAs) may assist families who may be experiencing financial hardships.

Reporting Changes During the School Year

Households may contact LEAs to report changes in their circumstances during the school year, even though they are not required to do so. In this circumstance, a new application is not required. When a change increases the level of benefits (e.g., reduced-price to free, or paid to reduced-price), LEAs should put the change into effect within three operating days.

Applying During the School Year

Households may apply at any time during the school year, even if the LEA denied an earlier application. However, the households who reapply because they did not complete the verification process are subject to the requirements outlined in Chapter 3, E (Benefits during an Appeal) of the USDA 2008 Eligibility Guidance Manual for School Meals. The manual may be accessed at the following USDA Web page: [Note, the preceding Web address is no longer valid, and has been replaced with]

Increasing the Frequency of Direct Certification

Since students/households may become eligible for the Food Stamp or CalWORKs benefits throughout the school year, the California Department of Education (CDE) encourages LEAs to conduct additional direct certification activities to identify newly eligible children. LEAs should also work with school districts’ homeless, migrant, and runaway liaison(s) to promptly identify these children who are also categorically (automatically) eligible for free meals.


The CDE encourages LEAs to inform families about the availability of free and reduced-price meal benefits for eligible children. Further, the CDE would like to remind LEAs about their ability to complete an application for a child known to be eligible if the household fails to apply. The requirements for this process are discussed in Chapter 2, B (Eligible Households That Fail to Apply) of the USDA Eligibility Manual for School Meals (Web link above).

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please contact the appropriate SNP specialist listed on form Caseload SNP in the Download Forms section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System. You may also contact the SNP Unit Office Technician by phone at 916-322-1450 or 800-952-5609.

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