ADE Director's Communication Memo Form

Memo Number : FIN-10-021

Date Created : 09/03/2009


Co-op Directors
other: Principals
CN Directors
SIS Coordinators
Confirming and Verifying Officials

Type of Memo: Regulatory
Response Required: No
Section:   Fiscal and Administrative Services - William J. Goff, Assistant Commissioner
Federal Policy change to Extend Categorical Eligibility to all students in SNAP Households

Regulatory Authority:
7CFR 245.2; USDA Policy Memo SP 38-2009

Contact Person:
Karen Franklin

Phone Number:


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notified state agencies on August 31, 2009, of the Food and Nutrition Service, Memo SP-38-2009 issued August 27th with a significant change in policy interpretation EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY. USDA modified the policy related to categorical eligibility for free meals for children who are members of a household receiving assistance under Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly called the Food Stamp Program. USDA is reverting back to the policy interpretation prior to the revised 2008 USDA Eligibility Guidance Manual.

This change in interpretation is not new, but goes back to the original USDA interpretation used from the time of the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. Between 2004 and 2008 USDA made gradual changes in interpretations until last year with the most significant change requiring student/individual eligibility and elimination of the household determination for SNAP/Food Stamps.

With the 2008-2009 School Year categorical eligibility was only available to the children of the household originally on the parent’s SNAP/food stamp application with Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Therefore, a child on a Free and Reduced Household Application who was not checked off as being on the DHS SNAP/Food Stamp Application was not allowed categorical eligibility for free school meals. A child who may have joined the household after the DHS SNAP/Food Stamp Household designation was treated separately and not as a part of the DHS SNAP/Food Stamp Household application, thus the parent was required to fill out income portion of the Free/Reduced School Meal Household Income Application for that child.

Beginning in School Year 2009-2010, for direct certification with Food Stamp Household/SNAP and applications with case numbers for this program, ALL CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY, as defined in 7CFR 245.2, are CATEGORICALLY ELIGIBLE for free meals. The definition of family in 7CFR 245.2 is “…a group of related or nonrelated individuals, who are not residents of an institution or boarding house, but who are living as one economic unit.”

To the extent possible, the local education agency (LEA) MUST EXTEND eligibility for free meals to ALL CHILDREN in what would be considered a family for the purposes of applying for free or reduced price meals. If the LEA does not have an application for reference, the LEA may be able to use school district enrollment records to determine additional children who are part of the family and were not identified through direct certification. The district’s Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) SIS Coordinator for student data may be able to assist the Determining Official with documentation of additional students in the household.

For households submitting applications with case numbers for some, but not all, of the children, the LEA MUST certify all children as categorically eligible for FREE meals. Any income information on the application is disregarded. Further, for purposes of carry-over into the new school year, categorical eligibility must, to the extent feasible, be extended to newly enrolled siblings.

This memo SUPERSEDES the policy provided in the 2008 USDA Eligibility Guidance for School Meals concerning categorical eligibility. The Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), Child Nutrition Unit (CNU) will update wording in the 2008 Guidance online copy when the official language is released by USDA. Due to the number of pages and sections affected the Eligibility Guidance Manual will be reprinted as soon as USDA revisions become available.

Please note that the policies DO NOT apply or extend to other categorically eligible categories such as Head Start, Even Start, Homeless, Runaway or children enrolled in the Migrant Education Program.

Determining Officials MUST make sure that all students that can be considered categorically eligible based on this new policy are given free meal benefits. Any household with meal status changes based on this new policy should be sent either the “Notification of Approval for Free Meals based on Direct Certification” letter (if changes made due to Direct Certification eligibility) or “Notice of Approval” letter (if the change is based on a Free and Reduce Price Meal Application). The notification based on Direct Certification gives the household the opportunity to decline the free meal benefits. These letters can be found in Forms packet attachment to Commissioners Memo FIN-09-072, Child Nutrition Renewal of Agreement 2009-2010.

Recap of New Policies:
1. Direct Certification designation extends to all children in the household if one child in the household is on the Direct Certification list.
2. LEAs may use district enrollment records to determine additional children who are part of the family that are not listed on the Direct Certification list and make those children categorically eligible for free meal benefits.
3. Free and Reduced Price Meal Applications with a SNAP (food stamp) case number applies to all children on the application (no need to have the box checked for each child – all children are considered part of the SNAP household).
4. There will no longer be any “dual eligibility” applications.
5. The extension of benefits DOES NOT APPLY to other categorically eligible students (i.e.: Homeless, Migrant, Runaway, Head Start or Even Start).
6. Determining Officials MUST make changes based on this new policy for the 2009-2010 school year.

If there are any questions, please contact the ADE CNU Area specialist assigned to the school district at 501-324-9502.


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