The Child Nutrition Unit (CNU) encourages quick action by
districts and schools to ensure accurate reflections of the need of their
student populations by promoting the completion of school meal applications.
When families and schools partner to complete Free and Reduced Price
Meal Applications, both benefit from:
and Reduced Price Meals to eligible students
to ACT testing at no cost to the family
to concurrent credit opportunities at no cost to the family
to discounted rate for internet services and other supports
Districts should strongly encourage households to complete a
Allowable practices in the collection of applications can
include, but are not limited to:
with parents and guardians the benefits for both families and schools
community outreach to encourage households to submit applications for meal
families with a school contact who will provide additional information and
families that participating in school meals or completing an application
does not affect the student’s or family’s SNAP benefits
families that schools maintain the confidentiality of families that
complete meal applications
the community information regarding free and reduced price meals by
posting applications in parent centers, post offices, grocery stores,
unemployment offices, county health units, and other community buildings
technology (social media, emails, apps, websites, etc.) to remind families
that meal applications must be renewed at the beginning of each school
year and that meal benefits are available to all students at any time
during the school year.
additional contact with households that have not completed an application
for school year 2022-23, especially when that household qualified for
benefits in school year 2021-22, before the allowed carryover from the
previous year’s eligibility expires for the new school year.
Sample flyers and media release
attached to this memo: Child Nutrition Resource
Districts might consider distributing the “Public Release,”
which details the availability of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and
the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and provides information related to program
eligibility, in the following locations:
and district websites and social media
cable TV company
TV and radio stations
businesses / employers / factories
health department offices
Department of Motor Vehicles
Department of Human Services office
hospitals and clinics
Schools must be aware that
federal policies govern the free and reduced-price application process. The Eligibility Manual for
School Meals dated July 18, 2018, is the most recent United States Department
of Agriculture (USDA) guidance available.
Schools should continue to rely on their district determining
official(s) to accurately determine the eligibility of students for free and reduced-price
meals. These individuals are trained on the appropriate methods and
requirements for approval and denial of all applications returned. The
determining official will communicate with households if additional information
or clarifications are needed prior to making the determination of the benefit.
Districts are required
to provide free, reimbursable meals to students who receive free meals at a
Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) school and during the
year transfer to a non-Provision school. Schools must provide these students
with free, reimbursable meals for up to 10 operating days or until a new
eligibility determination for the current school year is made, whichever comes
In Arkansas, the meal
benefit can be extended for up to 30 operating days or until a new eligibility
is determined for the current school year, whichever comes first.
For more information
regarding prior year carry over eligibility for the 2022-2023 school year,
refer to the following Commissioner’s Memo: Meal Eligibility and
30-day carryover for SY 2022-2023
Effective Date of Free or Reduced Price Meal Eligibility
The United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) Policy Memo SP 11-2014 clarifies the requirements in order for districts
to establish flexibility concerning the effective date of certification for
National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) program
The Eligibility Manual
for School Meals states that the
determination, notification, and implementation of free and reduced-price meal
status be made within 10 operating days from the date the application is
received by the SFA. If the SFA chooses, and the requirements below are
met, the SFA could establish the date of receipt of the application as the
effective date of eligibility, rather than the date the determining official
This flexibility only
applies to eligibility determination made through the application process, and
only to complete applications containing all required information at the time of submission.
Authorities (SFAs) choosing to exercise the flexibility in the effective date
of eligibility MUST:
- Notify the CNU in advance
- Apply this flexibility to all
students participating in the NSLP and SBP;
- Have a method to document the
date the application was received, such as date stamp;
- Refund families of eligible
students for a reimbursable meal prior to the eligibility determination;
- Forgive debt accumulated between receipt of application and determining or forgive debt accumulated during application processing time.
- If a student has paid for full price meals and was subsequently determined eligible for reduced price meals:
- The SFA could adjust the claim to have the previously served meals reimbursed as reduced price, rather than paid.
- The SFA MUST refund the difference between the total amount paid for the full price meals and the total amount that would have been paid for reduced price meals from the date the application was submitted to the SFA to the date the eligibility determination was made.
- If the student was allowed to charge 5 lunch meals under the SFAs established charge policy at the paid rate after submitting an application but prior to being determined eligible for reduced meals.
5 lunches @ $3.40 each = $17.00
SFA charges $0.40 for Reduced Lunch
- Revise claim to reflect addition of five (5) reduced lunches and reduction of 5 paid lunches.
- Adjust the amount of the debt for charged lunches to reflect only the reduced meal charge of $0.40 per lunch or $2.00 (delete the $15.00 debt.)
- If the student had paid the $17.00 then the SFA must refund the family the difference in the debt and the cost of the charged reduced lunches, $15.00.
This flexibility could
help families of low-income students by allowing them to access free or reduced-price
meals during the eligibility determination period. It could benefit the
SFAs that experience challenges with unpaid debt.