Special Assistance Alternatives
In an effort to reduce paperwork at the local level, Congress has incorporated into Section 11(a)(1) of the National School Lunch Act three alternative provisions to the normal requirements for annual determinations of eligibility for free and reduced price school meals and daily meal counts by type (free, reduced price and paid meals) at the point of service.
This Provision reduces application burdens by allowing free eligibility to be certified for a 2 year period. In schools where at least 80 percent of the children enrolled are eligible for free or reduced price meals, annual notification of program availability and certification of children eligible for free meals may be reduced to once every 2 consecutive school years. All other households must be provided a meal application and are allowed to apply for meal benefits each school year. There is no requirement to serve meals at no charge to all students. Schools must continue to record daily meal counts of the number of meals served to children by type as the basis for calculating reimbursement claims. Provision 1 has been an option for schools since publication of regulations in 1980.
This Provision reduces application burdens and simplifies meal counting and claiming procedures. It allows schools to establish claiming percentages and to serve all meals at no charge for a 4 year period. Schools must serve meals to all participating children at no charge for a period of 4 years. During the first year, or base year, the school makes eligibility determinations and takes meal counts by type. During the next 3 years, the school makes no new eligibility determinations and counts only the total number of reimbursable meals served each day. Reimbursement during these years is determined by applying the percentages of free, reduced price and paid meals served during the corresponding month of the base year to the total meal count for the claiming month. The base year is included as part of the 4 years. At the end of each 4 year period, the State agency may approve 4 year extensions if the income level of the school’s population remains stable. Schools electing this alternative must pay the difference between Federal reimbursement and the cost of providing all meals at no charge. The money to pay for this difference must be from sources other than Federal funds. Provision 2 has been an option for schools since publication of regulations in 1980.
This Provision reduces application burdens and meal counting and claiming procedures. It allows schools to simply receive the same level of Federal cash and commodity assistance each year, with some adjustments, for a 4 year period. Schools must serve meals to all participating children at no charge for a period of 4 years. These schools do not make additional eligibility determinations. Instead, they receive the level of Federal cash and commodity support paid to them for the last year in which they made eligibility determinations and meal counts by type, this is the base year. For each of the 4 years, the level of Federal cash and commodity support is adjusted to reflect changes in enrollment and inflation. The base year is not included as part of the 4 years. At the end of each 4 year period, the State agency may approve 4 year extensions if the income level of the school’s population remains stable. Schools electing this alternative must pay the difference between Federal reimbursement and the cost of providing all meals at no charge. The money to pay for this difference must be from sources other than Federal funds. Provision 3 has been an option for schools since 1995 through an implementing memorandum.
Community Eligibility Provision
The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. A key provision of The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA, Public Law 111-296; December 13, 2010), CEP allows the nation’s highest poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without the burden of collecting household applications. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students participating in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
To be eligible, LEAs and/or schools must: meet a minimum level (40%) of identified students for free meals in the year prior to implementing the CEP; agree to serve free lunches and breakfasts to all students; not collect free and reduced price applications from households in participating schools; and agree to cover with non-Federal funds any costs of providing free meals to all students above amounts provided in Federal assistance.
Information from USDA’s web site at www.fns.usda.gov.