connecting homeless children with free school meals
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Connecting Homeless Children with Free School Meals. The Link Between Nutrition and Education. When a child’s nutritional needs are met, the child is more attentive in class and has better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems

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Presentation Transcript
the link between nutrition and education
The Link Between Nutrition and Education
  • When a child’s nutritional needs are met, the child is more attentive in class and has better attendance and fewer disciplinary problems
  • NSLP and SBP meet the nutritional needs of children by providing balanced meals that together contain more than half of the nutrients children need each day
  • USDA research indicates that children who participate in the NSLP have superior nutritional intakes compared to those who bring lunch from home or otherwise do not participate
  • Low-income children who eat school breakfast have better overall diet quality than those who eat breakfast elsewhere or skip breakfast
administrative structure
Administrative Structure


State Child Nutrition Agency

School LocalGovt AgencyNonprofit

entitlement programs
Entitlement Programs

School Breakfast, Lunch, Afterschool Meals and Snacks

• No limit to how many children can participate

• Any program that qualifies can use them

• No cap on the number of years a program can


underutilized programs
Underutilized Programs
  • School Breakfast
    • 50.4% of the low-income children that receive F/RP lunch also receive breakfast
  • Afterschool Meals
    • New entitlement program – 2010 HHFKA
afterschool nutrition programs
Afterschool Nutrition Programs

Snacks can be served through

National School Lunch Program

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

Meals can be served through CACFP

CACFP also can be used on school holidays and weekends during the school year

income eligibility
Income Eligibility

• Free (130% of poverty and below)

• Reduced Price ( above 130% up to 185% of poverty)

• Paid

direct certification categorical eligibility
Direct Certification/Categorical Eligibility

SNAP/Food Stamps

TANF Cash Assistance

Food Distribution Programs on Indian Reservations

Foster Children

Homeless, Runaway, and Migrant

Head Start

free eligibility for children who are homeless
Free Eligibility for Children who are Homeless
  • Children who are considered homeless under the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act are categorically eligible for free school meals
  • Child must be identified by an appropriate program administrator (typically a local homeless education liaison or the director of a homeless shelter) as meeting the statutory definition
  • Once a child is certified for free school meals, eligibility remains in effect for the full school year and up to 30 operating days into the next school year even if circumstances change
why is categorical eligibility important
Why Is Categorical Eligibility Important?
  • Less paperwork for families and schools
  • Not subject to verification
  • Helps high-poverty schools provide universal free meals to all students
    • The new Community Eligibility Option allows high-poverty schools provide free breakfasts and lunches to all students without collecting applications
    • Eligibility and reimbursements are based on the number of eligible children approved without an application, including homeless children
ways to get a child certified for free school meals based on homeless status
Ways to Get a Child Certified for Free School Meals Based on Homeless Status

A homeless liaison must provide documentation

child’s name

statement certifying the homeless status of the child

signature and date

If available school nutrition administrators may look up students in the database and rely on the homeless determination documented there

School nutrition administrators must accept documentation confirming homeless status and must certify the child for free school meals

children identified as homeless on an application
Children Identified as Homeless on an Application

Applications must include a check box to identify a child as homeless (though not all do)

A child may not be approved for free meals based on a checked box on an application alone

Instructions for parents who check the box vary and are often confusing

When an LEA receives an application with the box checked indicating homeless status, the homeless liaison can provide documentation so they can be directly certified

best practices for applications
Best Practices for Applications

Explain to parents that homeless children qualify for free school meals and allow parents to indicate that a child is homeless or “lacks a permanent residence”

Provide clear instructions

Follow up with the homeless liaison to directly certify the child; follow up with children who have not been identified as homeless under McKinney Vento

The LEA may ask the homeless liaison whether any of the children selected for verification are homeless; some LEAs just encourage households to contact the homeless liaison

What Can School Officials Do?
  • School officials are permitted to complete a school meal application on behalf of children known to be eligible for school meals, including because of homelessness, who have not applied
  • The official must document the source of the knowledge
  • This process may be used when the homeless liaison is not immediately available
  • If a child’s status is not confirmed by the homeless liaison, benefits must be terminated
  • This option is especially important for unaccompanied youth
doubled up families
Doubled Up Families
  • The host family’s income does not affect the eligibility of the homeless children
  • If the host family applies for meal benefits for their own children and they provide support (such as shelter) to the homeless family, they have the option of including the homeless family’s members and income on the application
when a child moves
When a Child Moves
  • Within the same LEA, the certification remains in effect
  • If the move is to a new LEA, the new LEA may accept the determination of the prior LEA, but is not required to
  • If the new LEA does not accept the prior determination, the homeless liaison must make a new determination of eligibility or the family must complete an application
opportunities for improvements
Opportunities for Improvements
  • Operations
    • Use of electronic records to identify homeless children
    • Regular communication between homeless liaison and school nutrition officials
    • Clearer application process for homeless children who have not been directly certified
  • Federal Policies
    • Allowing unaccompanied youth to sign their own application
    • Allowing retroactive claiming to the date when the documentation or the application with the homeless box checked was received
For Further Information

Madeleine Levin

[email protected]

202-986-2200 x 3004

Zoë Neuberger

[email protected]


Access to Food for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students