Johnny Key

Commissioner of Education

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Eligibility Manual for School Meals

Determining Eligibility for School Meals

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Eligibility Manual for School Meals was revised in July 2017. 

"Receipt of benefits by any household member from certain programs conveys categorical (automatic) eligibility for free school meals to all children in the household. The determination is made through an application with appropriate case numbers or through “direct certification for assistance programs."

The Assistance Programs are: Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR); and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a Federal designation.”

In the state of Arkansas, the only Assistance Program that qualifies a student to be CATEGORICALLY ELIGIBLE for free meals is SNAP.  Arkansas does not have any FDPIR.  Arkansas TANF assets requirements do not correlate with the Child Nutrition Income Eligibility Guidelines.  Therefore, when the USDA Eligibility Manual refers to “assistance programs” categorical eligibility the only program that meets these criteria in Arkansas is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

USDA School Policy Memos - Related to Meal Eligibility

SP 52-2016 Early Implementation of Eligibility Carryover Period for Stuents Transitioning from Provision Schools:  State Agency Extension Options (PDF)

SP 51-2016  Ensuring Year-long Eligibility in the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs

SP 43-2016 Ensuring Access to Free and Reduced Price Meals for Low-Income Students (PDF)
  • Improving Access to School Meals – Webinar Slides (PDF)
SP 11-2014 Effective Date of Free and Reduced Price Meal Eligibility

SP 45-2012 Preventing Overt Identification

SP 44-2014 Questions and Answers Related to Independent Review of Applications

SP 51-2014 Eligibility Effective Date for Directly Certified Students

SP 13-2012 Verification for Cause in School Meals Programs

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