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Eligibility for Children in State-funded Pre-K

Nutrition Services Division Management Bulletin
Purpose: Beneficial Information
To: School Nutrition Program Sponsors Number: USDA-SNP-11-2013
Attention: Food Service Directors Date: May 2013
Subject: Eligibility for Free Meal Benefits to Children Enrolled in State-funded Pre-kindergarten
Reference: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, SP 23-2008, CACFP 07-2008, SFSP 06-2008, Management Bulletin USDA-SNP-08-2008

This Management Bulletin (MB) provides clarification to School Nutrition Program (SNP) sponsors regarding the eligibility criteria that applies to children in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. Sponsors must require households to complete an application for free and reduced-price meals or determine eligibility through direct certification in order to determine eligibility of households.


In October 2008, the Nutrition Services Division issued an MB (USDA-SNP-08-2008) titled Automatic Eligibility for Free Meals Benefits Extended to All Children Enrolled in Head Start to SNP sponsors stating that Public Law 110-134 makes any child enrolled in the federal Head Start program automatically eligible for free meals without further application or eligibility determination. This MB indicated that a child who is not from a household with an income at or below the poverty level is automatically eligible for free meals if he/she is enrolled in Head Start.

Additionally, the MB stated that the new eligibility criteria also applied to children in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs that were provided waivers under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) memorandum dated July 22, 1999, Automatic Eligibility of State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten Participants for Free Meals in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).


Several School Food Authorities contacted the California Department of Education (CDE) requesting clarification on waivers for children in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs.

The CDE does not provide waivers for this eligibility criteria. The state-funded pre-kindergarten program uses the state median income guidelines, which are less stringent than federal income poverty guidelines; therefore, a waiver allowing automatic free meal eligibility to children participating in the state-funded pre-kindergarten program is not allowed.

To determine eligibility of households participating in the state-funded pre-kindergarten program, sponsors must require households to complete an application for free and reduced-price meals or determine their eligibility through direct certification.

If you have any questions regarding this MB, please request contact information for your Field Services Unit Child Nutrition Consultant by phone at 800-952-5609, or you may contact your SNP Specialist. The SNP Specialist County Caseload list is located in the Download section of the Child Nutrition Information and Payment System.

Questions:   Nutrition Services Division | 800-952-5609
Last Reviewed: Friday, January 21, 2022
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