SNP Eligibility Guidance

School nutrition programs must determine a student’s eligibility to receive free and reduced meal benefits. All schools participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the School Breakfast Program (SBP) must make free and reduced price meals available to all eligible children. In general, categorical eligibility may be established through the application process or through the direct certification process.

Local education agencies (LEAs) must provide household applications to families applying for free or reduced price meals or free milk benefits, unless the household has been directly certified. Applications provided to households must be accompanied by instructional materials similar to those included with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) prototype application. One household application is submitted for all children in the household who attend schools in the same LEA. The LEAs cannot require a household to submit multiple applications.

Direct certification is the process in which LEAs certify children who are members of households participating in assistance programs (SNAP, TANF, or FDPIR) as eligible for free benefits, without further application, based on information provided by the state or local agencies administering those programs.

Each LEA must verify the eligibility of children from a sample of household applications approved for free and reduced price meal benefits for that school year. The LEA may begin verification once the application approval process for the current school year is underway and there are approved applications on file.

For more detailed information on eligibility guidance, review the Eligibility Manual for School Meals.